Badger History Bulletin - Review
Wisconsin History!: Surprising Secrets about Our State's Founding Mothers, Fathers, & Kids
By Carole Marsh. The Wisconsin History Series. (Gallopade Publishing Group, Atlanta, GA.) ISBN 3-9878-00-20-71-8, 35 pages, $29.95.Hardbound, illustrations.
Originally published in BHB Volume 3, Number 1
It is always a hope that when new materials appear on Wisconsin history that the volumes contain information that is accurate and well-researched. Unfortunately, materials authored by Carole Marsh do not fall into this category. In the specific title mentioned above, Marsh writes to students of Wisconsin, "If you have ancestors who lived through this adventure [American Revolution] they were certainly Wisconsin history makers."
It's a preposterous statement that even a young thinker could prove illogical. What is the obvious connection between an ancestor who lived during the Revolution, and the qualifications for being a Wisconsin history maker? Marsh never attempts to answer any potential question or challenge to her writing. Her publications are simply glorified worksheets or information (or more often, misinformation) handouts that are bound together.
Here is another example of the lack of accuracy in Marsh's attempt at writing: "Black slave men surely provided most of the hard, dirty, dangerous, back-breaking work of changing raw land into farmland to feed the colonists of Wisconsin."
Wisconsin was not one of the thirteen original colonies. The Upper Midwest was carved out of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Although some African-American families became Wisconsin farmers, one only has to look at population statistics to know that this group never provided the majority of the labor. And, although several military and government figures did illegally bring slaves into Wisconsin, the Northwest Ordinance forbid slavery in all of the states in the Northwest Territory, which included Wisconsin.
How could such deeply erroneous material make it into this book? One explanation is found when checking the bibliographies, and discovering that Marsh uses her own works as references. If she was inaccurate once, she is likely to be so again.
Another theory surfaces when one realizes that Marsh, based in Georgia, has written a series of state histories for many other states, some of which did have slavery or a likely link between colonial and state history. The individual pages in Marsh's books are often so generic that it is more than possible that she simply has substituted state names in the her boilerplate histories, without checking how well the facts apply.
I suggest that the buyer beware and contact the State Historical Society of Wisconsin for materials on Wisconsin history, or your local bookstore.
Mary Jane Herber
Brown County Library