Posts Tagged ‘women’
Friday, 9 October, 12:15-1:00 P.M.
Lady in the Blue Dress…and You!
Painted in an exquisite blue silk dress by her husband John Singleton Copley, the most famous artist in the American colonies, Susanna Copley was from Boston’s elite, a member of one of the town’s leading merchant families. But in 1773 she found herself surrounded by turmoil when her Loyalist family were named as tea consignees to sell British East India Company tea—the very tea that the Patriots were determined to refuse. Listen as she confides in a friend about her husband’s struggles and her fears for her family’s safety in a world where the established social and political order is coming under siege. Join in the conversation as historic reenactors Elizabeth Sulock and Elizabeth Mees share two well-clad women’s perspectives on a turbulent time.
Admission is free for Old South members, $6 for others. Ticket information here.
Friday, 23 October, 12:15-1:00 P.M.
Sheep to Shawl: Carding and Spinning at the Meeting House with Historic New England
Discover how New Englanders made clothes before the process became mechanized. Learn about the history and technology of spinning and dying wool and weaving cloth from Historic New England educator Carolin Collins. Then try your hand at picking, carding, and spinning wool from Historic New England’s flock of sheep in order to get a hands-on understanding of this vital historical craft!
Admission is free for Old South members, $6 for others. Ticket information here.
Friday, 12 November, 12:30-1:30 P.M.
Thread, Wool, and Silk: Weaving It All Together
Erica Lindamood, Education Director at Old South, will lead an informal discussion weaving together the programs on fashion, social class, and clothing production. Tea and cookies will be served, and participants can bring their own lunch if they wish. Admission is $5 for members, plus one guest.
Last month I introduced the figure of Thomas Wooldridge, an alderman of London who started the war as spokesman for the London merchants doing business with America and ended going bankrupt for the second time before dying in distant Boston.
Saturday 3 [May].
Yesterday two inhabitants of the parish of St. Mary Abchurch, made application to Mr. Alderman Wooldridge, at Guildhall for a warrant against the keeper of an infamous house, agreeable to the particular directions of the act of parliament; a warrant was granted, and Mr. Payne the constable immediately went to execute it; he presently came with the prisoner, a woman so big with child that she was on the eve of delivery; with her a pretty young woman, who, it afterwards turned out, was a nymph of the house.
Being closely interrogated by the alderman about her situation, she burst into a flood of tears, and a scene ensued that was extremely affecting: she said that she had lived in many reputable families, which she named, till being debauched by an attorney’s clerk, by whom she was with child, she was compelled to leave service and go to her father; but her mother-in-law [i.e., stepmother] turning her out of doors, she had no other resource to fly to than seeking that dissolute way of life which she now followed: every person present felt for the unfortunate girl, though nobody so much as herself, for her story was accompanied with the most evident emotions of contrition.
The alderman, in very severe terms, reprehended the keeper of the brothel, for to such characters, he justly observed, girls in general owed their ruin; but as the prisoner’s situation made her a very unfit object for a jail, she was permitted to return home, on a promise to discontinue the practice for which she was apprehended.
The young woman was sent by a constable to her father, who is a man of reputation; and we trust he will exercise tenderness, and not severity to a girl who appears to be more unfortunate than abandoned.
No word about how to deal with her stepmother.
See the In the Words of Women for an analysis of the print shown above.
The Massachusetts Historical Society has announced its schedule of seminars for the upcoming academic year. These come in four series: on early America, environmental history, urban history, and the history of women and gender.
I’ve picked out those that relate to colonial and federal America. Except for the one noted otherwise, every session starts at 5:15 P.M. at the society’s building on Boylston Street in Boston.
Thursday, 8 October
Jen Manion, Connecticut College, “Capitalism, Carceral Culture, and the Domestication of Working Women in the Early American City”
Comment: Cornelia Dayton, University of Connecticut
This session takes place at the Schlesinger Library in Cambridge starting at 5:30 P.M.
Tuesday, 3 November
Owen Stanwood, Boston College, “Peter Faneuil’s World: The Huguenot International and New England, 1682-1742”
Comment: Wim Klooster, Clark University
Tuesday, 10 November
Elizabeth Hyde, Kean University, “André Michaux and the Many Politics of Trees in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World”
Comment: Joseph F. Cullon, W.P.I./M.I.T.
Tuesday, 1 December
Rachel Walker, University of Maryland, “Faces, Beauty, and Brains: Physiognomy and Female Education in Post-Revolutionary America”
Comment: Robert A. Gross, University of Connecticut
Tuesday, 2 February
Wendy Roberts, University at Albany, S.U.N.Y., “Sound Believers: Rhyme and Right Belief”
Comment: Stephen A. Marini, Wellesley College
Tuesday, 1 March
Abigail Chandler, University of Massachusetts–Lowell, “‘Unawed by the Laws of Their Country’: The Role of English Law in North Carolina’s Regulator Rebellion”
Comment: Hon. Hiller Zobel, Massachusetts Superior Court
Tuesday, 5 April
Jared Hardesty, Western Washington University, “Constructing Castle William: An Intimate History of Labor and Empire in Provincial America”
Comment: Eliga H. Gould, University of New Hampshire
Tuesday, 3 May
Joanne Jahnke-Wegner, University of Minnesota, “‘They bid me speak what I thought he would give’: The Commodification of Captive Peoples during King Philip’s War”
Comment: Kate Grandjean, Wellesley College
In these seminars, the author of the paper doesn’t read it aloud. Instead, subscribers are invited to download that paper in advance. Discussions begin with comments by the author and commenter, and then any other attendees who have questions can join in. A subscription to three of the four series can be purchased for $25 through this site. (That doesn’t include the 8 October session, in the women’s history series.)
Here’s the purpose of this book:
Stepfamilies are not a modern phenomenon, but despite this reality, the history of stepfamilies in America has yet to be fully explored. In the first book-length work on the topic, Lisa Wilson examines the stereotypes and actualities of colonial stepfamilies and reveals them to be important factors in early United States domestic history.
Remarriage was a necessity in this era, when war and disease took a heavy toll, all too often leading to domestic stress, and cultural views of stepfamilies during this time placed great strain on stepmothers and stepfathers. Wilson shares the stories of real stepfamilies in early New England, investigating the relationship between prejudice and lived experience, and, in the end, offers a new way of looking at family units throughout history and the cultural stereotypes that still affect stepfamilies today.
Lisa Wilson is the Charles J. MacCurdy Professor of American History at Connecticut College. As well as being a member of the N.E.H.G.S., she’s a stalwart of the Massachusetts Historical Society’s Boston Area Early American History Seminar series [here’s the schedule for that series in the coming year]. Her previous books have been about widows in Pennsylvania and New England men’s domestic and family lives.
This talk is scheduled to begin at 6:00 P.M. It will be followed by a book-signing. register for this free event, use this page.
On 24 August, ten days after the first protest at Boston’s Liberty Tree, A Providence Gazette Extraordinary appeared. William Goddard (1740-1817) had stopped publishing this newspaper in May. This special issue was “Printed by S. and W. Goddard,” the “S.” being William’s mother Sarah (c. 1701-1770).
Sarah Goddard resumed the weekly publication of the paper in 1766 as “Sarah Goddard, and Company.” From January 1767 to 1769, the colophon clarified that she printed “(In the Absence of William Goddard),” the son having gone on to other cities. Finally she sold the business to employee John Carter, who maintained the paper for decades to follow. Her daughter, Mary Katherine Goddard, established a print shop in Baltimore.
That issue of the Providence Gazette was extraordinary indeed, being almost entirely devoted to one political cause:
- Above the masthead it proclaimed, “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” (“The Voice of the People is the Voice of God”).
- The essays were all about the problems with the Stamp Act, including a paragraph from Isaac Barré’s speech in Parliament.
- The news was all about anti-Stamp Act protests in Boston and Connecticut, and similar disturbances in Britain.
- The paper printed five resolutions from the Providence town meeting modeled on the resolutions that the Virginia House of Burgesses had reportedly passed that spring.
- The last page described a new paper mill that the Goddards were helping to build outside Providence—a business potentially at odds with the Stamp Act.
In his history of the Revolution, the Rev. William Gordon wrote that “Effigies were also exhibited; and in the evening cut down and burnt by the populace” in Providence on this date, but I haven’t found any confirmation of that.
Instead, the next big development in Rhode Island appears to have happened down in Newport on 27 August. Here’s the description of that day published in the 2 September Newport Mercury:
Last Tuesday Morning a Gallows was erected in Queen-Street, just below the Court-House, whereon the Effigies of three Gentlemen were exhibited, one of whom was a Distributor of Stamps, which was placed in the Center. The other two were suspected of countenancing and abetting the Stamp Act.
Various Labels were affixed to their Breasts, Arms, &c. denoting the Cause of these indignant Representations, and the Persons who were the Subjects of Derision.—They hung from Eleven o’Clock till about Four, when some Combustibles being placed under the Gallows, a Fire was made, and the Effigies consumed, amidst the Acclamations of the People.—The whole was conducted with Moderation, and no Violence was offered to the Persons or Property of any Man.
A report published in London later that year offered some more physical details: “about nine o’clock in the morning, the people of Newport, in Rhode Island, brought forth the effigies of three persons, in a cart, with halters about their necks, to a gallows, twenty feet high.”
Notably, the Mercury didn’t identify the three “Persons who were the Subjects of Derision,” even by initials. But everyone in town knew who they were:
- Rhode Island’s stamp-tax collector, Augustus Johnston (c. 1729-1790).
- Martin Howard, Jr. (1725–1781), a lawyer who had written a pamphlet titled A Letter from a Gentleman at Halifax to His Friend in Rhode Island, supporting the Stamp Act—a very rare position for an American to take.
- Dr. Thomas Moffatt (c. 1702–1787), another supporter of stronger royal government.
Moffatt later identified three merchants—Samuel Vernon (1711-1792), William Ellery (1727-1820), and Robert Crook—as guarding the spectacle from local officials, just as the Loyall Nine did in Boston. The doctor also said that to build a crowd they “sent into the streets strong Drink in plenty with Cheshire cheese and other provocatives to intemperance and riot.” Yet that day ended with no other destruction than the burning of the effigies.
TOMORROW: But it wasn’t over yet.
Yesterday I proposed that Phillis Wheatley wrote her “Ode to Neptune” about Susanna Wooldridge (sometimes spelled “Woolridge”). Here’s my argument.
On 29 Aug 1771, the New-York Journal ran this piece of news from London:
Saturday last was married, Thomas Wooldridge, Esq; Provost Marshal General, and Receiver General of his Majesty’s province of East-Florida, also Fort Adjutant and Barrack-master of Fort St. Marks, to Miss Kelly, daughter of William Kelly, Esq; of John street, Crutched Friers.
“Crutched Friars” was a newly fashionable neighborhood in the City of London near Tower Hill, named after a monastery closed by Henry VIII and burned in the Great Fire. Kelly later moved into “The Crescent” nearby, shown above in its modern form.
That wedding notice was meaningful for New Yorkers because the bride’s father did a lot of business in the city, and in America. William Kelly was a partner of Abraham Lott, treasurer of New York colony. He invested in the Great Dismal Swamp Company. In the summer of 1773, the East India Company invited Kelly along with select other merchants to discuss shipping tea to America. His business associates and executors included Brook Watson of shark fame.
Kelly’s August 1774 will, written when he was “in Bath for the recovery of a Numbness that has attacked me in my feet,” gives the name of the daughter who married Thomas Wooldridge as Susanna. It also indicates that before the marriage Kelly had promised Wooldridge “£3,000 in lands in the Provinces of New York and New Jersey” while arranging £2,000 for Susanna “free from the debts and control of her husband.”
Thomas Wooldridge has already made an appearance on Boston 1775. My description of him back then was based on his correspondence with the Earl of Dartmouth, mostly about patronage positions in Florida mentioned in the wedding notice above. In 1772 Wooldridge was back in America, traveling around and currying favor by sending Dartmouth various dispatches, an effort that promised to pay off when the earl became Secretary of State.
Among the people Wooldridge met in America, as I described before, was Phillis Wheatley. On 24 Nov 1772 he sent Dartmouth a letter telling how she’d answered his challenge to compose a poem as he watched. He enclosed the result, “To the Earl of Dartmouth,” and Wheatley’s personal letter. Those documents are dated 10 October—the same date as her “Ode to Neptune.” Later that month, he stood sponsor for a baby during a baptism at King’s Chapel and then he went back to New York to write his report to Dartmouth.
I don’t have evidence that Thomas Wooldridge had brought his bride to America and that she was planning to sail back home to London toward the end of 1772. But I think that was the case. She’s certainly a “Mrs. W——” who could be addressed as “Susannah.” Perhaps Susanna Wooldridge came to Boston with her husband and met Wheatley. Perhaps Thomas asked the enslaved poet for a special composition which he could bring back to his wife in New York. But this seems like a more logical story for that poem than that Wheatley wrote it for Susannah Wheatley (who never sailed abroad) or Patience Wright (who never went by “Susannah”).
Under my scenario, “Ode to Neptune” isn’t Phillis Wheatley’s plea for smooth sailing for her beloved mistress or for an artistic colleague, but a well-crafted commission in classical style created for a well-connected patron. Wheatley was adept at that aspect of an eighteenth-century author’s life, just as she was adept with words.
TOMORROW: Thomas and Susanna Wooldridge in London during the war.
Yesterday I quoted Phillis Wheatley’s “Ode to Neptune,” published in London in 1773 with the subtitle “On Mrs. W——’s Voyage to England” and dateline “Boston, October 10, 1772.”
For readers seeking to identify “Mrs. W——,” the poem offers some internal clues:
- Her last initial was W, of course, and she was almost certainly married and alive in October 1772.
- Later the poem addresses her as “my Susannah.”
- She was about to make a voyage across the ocean to the Thames River in England.
Given the first two clues, most people’s first guess is that Phillis wrote this poem to her mistress, Susannah Wheatley. Except that other evidence strongly suggests that Susannah Wheatley never went to England.
Phillis Wheatley almost certainly addressed her mistress in another poem titled “A Farewel to America. To Mrs. S. W.” But that was when Phillis was about to sail to London and Susannah was staying behind in Boston.
The next guess is based on notes in a copy of Phillis Wheatley’s 1773 book of poetry owned by the American Antiquarian Society. Beside the “Farewel” poem someone penned “Mrs. Susannah Wright,” and then a different someone penciled, “eminent for her Wax Works etc.”
Scholars agree that the “Mrs. S.W.” mentioned in “A Farewel” is Susannah Wheatley. So some have argued that the notes in that A.A.S. copy were actually meant for another poem—namely, “Ode to Neptune.” A woman named “Susannah Wright” who traveled to England in late 1772 would fit all the internal clues. However, no one has identified such a woman or linked her to the Wheatleys.
The “eminent for her Wax Works” line has prompted other interpreters to assert that Wheatley addressed her “Ode to Neptune” to Patience Wright (shown above), who indeed became famous on both sides of the Atlantic for her wax likenesses of people. Wright was in Boston in the early 1770s, and, like Wheatley, she created a tribute to the Rev. George Whitefield.
Patrick Moseley wrote a whole article in New Essays on Phillis Wheatley (2011) about the relationship of Patience Wright and Phillis Wheatley as two women seeking sustenance and respect from their arts in the pre-Revolutionary British Empire. But there remain some inconvenient facts:
- Patience Wright sailed for England in February 1772, months before Phillis Wheatley wrote her poem about “Mrs. W——” embarking.
- Wheatley’s poem clearly addresses its subject as “Susannah.”
- There’s no evidence Wheatley and Wright had any relationship aside from those notes in the A.A.S. copy, which have no source, get Wright’s name wrong, and are attached to a different poem written for someone else.
So here’s my contribution to Wheatley scholarship: The “Mrs. W——” mentioned in “Ode to Neptune” was Susanna Wool(d)ridge, daughter of London merchant William Kelly.
That’s the date on which Phillis Wheatley officially joined the Old South congregation in 1771. At the time she was still enslaved in the Wheatley family though she was already becoming known locally for her memorial verse.
The historic site will offer hands-on activities related to Wheatley’s work with museum admission. Meanwhile, her writing desk can be seen at the Massachusetts Historical Society, and a signed copy of her 1773 collection of poems is on display at the Boston Public Library. [ADDENDUM: The library exhibit is closed from 3:30 P.M. on 18 August through 20 August.]
Wheatley usually wrote in rhymed pentameter couplets, but here’s a Horatian ode from that collection:
ODE TO NEPTUNE,
On Mrs. W——’s Voyage to England.
WHILE raging tempests shake the shore,
While Æolus’ thunders round us roar,
And sweep impetuous o’er the plain,
Be still, O tyrant of the main;
Nor let thy brow contracted frowns betray,
While my Susannah skims the watery way.
The Power propitious hears the lay,
The blue-eyed daughters of the sea
With sweeter cadence glide along,
And Thames responsive joins the song.
Pleased with their note, Sol sheds benign his ray,
And double radiance decks the face of day.
To court thee to Britannia’s arms,
Serene the clime and mild the sky,
Her region boasts unnumbered charms;
Thy welcome smiles in ev’ry eye.
Thy promise, Neptune, keep; record my prayer,
Nor give my wishes to the empty air.
Boston, October 10, 1772.
That poem raises an obvious question: Who was “Mrs. W——”?
TOMORROW: The usual answers.
Ten years can be a significant time in the changing fashions of clothes. Ten years ago, there was still hope that Croc shoes would be a passing fad. Teen-aged boys had not yet received the mass text message telling them to stop having haircuts for several months. And the clothing industry hadn’t determined that what American men really wanted to wear was gingham, leaving no other type of dress shirt on store hangers.
Fifteen years ago, volunteers working with Minute Man National Historical Park came up with scrupulously researched clothing guidelines for the reenactment of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Those guidelines continue to be updated with additional information. But they don’t necessarily apply to 1765, ten years earlier.
For the upcoming sestercentennial reenactments of the Stamp Act protests in Boston and Newport, Hallie Larkin and Stephanie Z. Smith of At the Sign of the Golden Scissors prepared guidelines for dressing in New England in 1765. That document can downloaded from this page at the Newport Historical Society.
It’s a big download: a 31-page P.D.F. file with lots of illustrations. There are many upper-class portraits, of course, but also images and other documentation about the clothing of middling folks and workers.
From eyewitness accounts of the Stamp Act protests we know the crowd was mixed. In Boston the daytime crowd included both men and women, as well as “two or three hundred little boys with a Flagg marching in Procession.”
After nightfall, Lt. Gov. Thomas Hutchinson wrote, the effigies were paraded around town by “Forty or fifty tradesmen, decently dressed,” followed by “some thousands.” Gov. Francis Bernard later declared those leaders were actually gentlemen disguised in middling dress; friends of the royal government never let go of the idea that political opponents in the elite were manipulating popular opinion rather than that the populace might have political initiatives of its own.
(Image above from a reenactment of 1770 recorded on the website of Nick Johnson.)
Earlier this month the Baltimore Sun reported on the installation of a historical plaque in a downtown Rite-Aid pharmacy.
That drugstore is on the probable site of the Goddard print shop in 1777. On 18 January of that year, Mary Katherine Goddard issued a broadside reprinting the Declaration of Independence with the names of all the Continental Congress delegates who had signed the document so far.
The Sun article has such headlines as “How a Baltimore woman defied the Redcoats” and “See how Mary Katherine Goddard helped win the Revolutionary War.”
It quotes Andrew Carroll, author of Here Is Where and promoter of this plaque, saying that her printing “was a total act of defiance. She was saying, ‘I’m stepping forward and I’m putting my life at risk in the expectation that other people will do the same. There’s no turning back now.’”
Printing the Declaration, the article says, “put her life at risk.” An official at the Maryland Historical Society states of Goddard, “If the war had ended differently, the signers would have been convicted and hanged for treason, and she probably would have been hanged as well.”
For the record we should note that:
- There were no redcoats in Baltimore to defy. The British army was no closer than Princeton, New Jersey, that month, and it never attacked or occupied Baltimore.
- The British authorities had just held New Jersey signer Richard Stockton in custody and did not try or hang him.
- There’s no example of the Crown executing an American printer for supporting independence or printing the Declaration. In fact, many British printers reprinted that text because it was significant news.
- While making the Declaration look nice for the Congress no doubt suggested support for its cause, Goddard’s status as a woman would have given her more insulation from political accusations—not that she was ever in British custody to be so accused.
Goddard’s work as both printer and postmaster was undoubtedly significant and deserves to be remembered. But the rhetoric around the installation of this plaque seems unduly sensational.
During last week’s investigation of the conflicting accounts of the June 1776 fight in Boston harbor that ended with the capture of troop transport ships from Scotland, Boston 1775 reader Peter Ansoff sent a message with some additional information. So I’m happily running it as a guest blog entry.
The schooners involved in the capture of the Scottish transports were not actually privateers, but the armed vessels commissioned by Gen. George Washington to prey on British commerce. One of them, the Hancock, was commanded by Samuel Tucker, who later served with distinction in the Continental Navy. Commodore Tucker wrote a short sketch of the affair in 1818, which was published in John H. Sheppard’s biography of Tucker in 1868:
The first cruise I made was performed in January 1776, and I had to purchase the small arms to encounter the enemy with money from my own pocket, or go without them; and the consort mentioned above [his wife] made the banner I fought under: the field of which was white, and the union was green, made therein in the figure of a pine tree, made of cloth of her own purchasing and at her own expense. These colors I wore in honor of the country—which has so nobly rewarded me for my past services—and the love of their maker, until I fell in with Colonel Archibald Campbell…
This is one of only two first-hand descriptions of “Pine Tree” flags carried by Washington’s cruisers, the other being the well-known flag of Capt. Sion Martindale’s brig Washington, captured by the British in December 1775.
Tucker’s description is different from the modern conception of the Pine Tree flag, in that the pine tree is in a union (or canton, a small rectangle in the upper hoist corner), rather than in the middle of a plain field. Tucker’s description is a bit puzzling. The white field and the green union are clear enough, but what color was the pine tree in the union? Or does his phrase “made therein” simply suggest a small green pine tree in the upper hoist corner of the flag, without a defined union? There is also no mention of the “Appeal to Heaven” motto that appeared on the Washington’s flag and is standard on modern Pine Tree flag replicas.
Tucker then recounts the capture of the troop ships George and the Annabella:
About ten P.M. a severe conflict ensued, which held about two hours and twenty minutes. I conquered them with great carnage on their side, it being in the night, and my small barque, about seventy tons burden, being very low in the water, I received no damage in loss of men, but lost a complete set of new sails by the passing of their balls; then the white field and the pine tree union were riddled to atoms. I was then immediately supplied with a new suit of sails and a new suit of colors, made of canvas and bunting of my own prize goods.
Unfortunately, this is no clearer with respect to what the “pine tree union” looked like.
Nor was Tucker’s phrase “I conquered them” clear that his Hancock was not the only ship in the battle with the George and Annabella, nor (by all other accounts) the biggest, most effective American ship during the final confrontation. But Capt. Seth Harding’s 1776 report had left Tucker and his colleagues out, so maybe Tucker figured this was only fair.
The image above is merely symbolic of the pine tree flag since we don’t even know what the pine looked like, much less the rest of the flag.
Thanks again, Peter!
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew recently announced a plan to add a notable American woman to the next redesign of the ten-dollar bill. It’s been more than a century since Martha Washington appeared on a U.S. silver certificate.
Alexander Hamilton will still appear on the note even after the yet-to-be-selected woman makes her debut. The Treasury either will design two bills or Hamilton and the woman will share the same bill.
Somehow I think Hamilton would like the space-sharing solution. (Ladies…) Nonetheless, Lew’s plan has been decried as “replacing” Hamilton.
This announcement followed a campaign to put an American woman on the twenty-dollar bill in place of Andrew Jackson, a very important President with repressive policies and an antipathy to a national bank. But the ten-dollar bill happens to be the next up for redesign.
Fans of Hamilton (now appearing on Broadway) came to his defense, making the obvious argument that the Treasury Department owes loyalty to its founder. Some, such as Steven Rattner in the New York Times, added that Hamilton’s political views are better in tune with today’s values than Jackson (who hasn’t been the lead character in a Broadway musical in, what, two years).
William Hogeland, author of The Whiskey Rebellion, agrees on the irony of reducing Hamilton’s place on Treasury notes, but he thinks that Rattner’s comparisons are fallacious. The whole essay is a delight, but here are a couple of choice bits:
Jackson was a slaveowner, and he defended the institution. While there is ample evidence to suggest that Hamilton at times owned slaves, Hamilton opposed the institution, so Rattner repeats a familiar fallacy: “Hamilton was an abolitionist.” Hamilton’s biographer Ron Chernow says that about Hamilton too; most of the biographers do, and why not? it’s a lovely thought. But it’s not true.
Readers interested in that subject will want to start with this balanced, scrupulous paper by the historian Michelle DuRross. Hamilton the “staunch abolitionist” (Chernow) is such a longstanding biographical fantasy, with such a tangled history, that a certain kind of graduate student would have a ball unraveling it. Readers may be forgiven for believing that young Hamilton had the horrors of the slave markets of the Caribbean so painfully seared on his brain that in adulthood he was inspired to oppose slavery: most of the major and not-so-major Hamilton biographies — Lodge’s, Miller’s, Mitchell’s, Randall’s, McDonald’s, Brookhiser’s and Chernow’s — tell that story. Literally none can cite a primary source. Some cite one another: Randall cites Mitchell, Miller cites Lodge, e.g. The story is such common knowledge that I don’t think Chernow even gives it a citation. Its origin is unclear. But it’s made up.
DuRoss reminds us of the difference between promoting manumission (encouraging slave owners to free their human property) and campaigning for abolition (using the law to end slavery).
And as for Hamilton being more appropriate for a printed bill:
Hamilton’s entire career, before and after becoming Secretary, was based on demolishing paper finance, the depreciating populist currencies of his day that built debt relief into money. With the entire lending-and-investing class that he represented and promoted, Hamilton liked specie, metal. Big notes like those written on the Bank of the United States were not, to Hamilton, a “national currency,” as Rattner tortures history to assert. The federal government did not print paper currencies as long as (and well after) Hamilton had anything to say about it.
I’m taking time today to interview a scholar of gender, Pentecostalism and performance theory is a great pleasure! Where were all these neat theoretical ideas when I was writing my dissertation? This is Leah’s first book, for readers contemplating adding readings, or better yet, assigning a new text that covers gender, Pentecostalism, and performance…you would do well to consider dropping a few bucks on Leah’s book & for those of us who perpetually lament the lack of women scholars on our reading lists, in our libraries and in our mutual networks—a chance to put your activism into action.
5 Questions for Leah Payne on her new book Gender and Pentecostal Revivalism: Making a Female Ministry in the Early Twentieth Century, life in the academy, & the X-Files re-boot.
Leah Payne received her Ph.D. in History and Critical Theories of Religion from Vanderbilt University in 2013. She is a Louisville Institute postdoctoral fellow in American Religious History and Women’s Studies at George Fox University in Portland, Oregon. Her research interests include American religious innovation, gender, race, and class construction, performance theory, and religion & popular culture. In her spare time, she blogs about coffee, television, and religious studies at leahpayne.blogspot.com
1) Gender issue within Pentecostalism are usually relegated to sub-specialties once the “real” history of great men is played out, like an addendum to the real story, how do you think your book and your future work challenges that paradigm?
That’s a great question! I think some of this relegation happens because scholars of Pentecostalism do not think gender theory has potential to give insight to the movement in ways that are just as powerful as the “great men” approach. Hopefully, with time and more gender-conscious scholarship, students of Pentecostalism will see that investigating gender construction shows us a lot about how and why the movement changed over time. Also, as I wrote Gender and Pentecostal Revivalism, I found that questions about gender led me to other helpful questions. If the creation of womanliness and manliness shaped the movement, how about sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, etc.? I hope that my book demonstrates that applying gender theory to the history of Pentecostalism shows us aspects of the movement that intellectual histories of “great men” might otherwise miss.
2) I have found some pretty striking similarities between Pentecostal pioneers like Maria Atkinson, Sister Aimee, and Kathryn Kuhlman to name a few. They all had problems with their marriages, and yet they were venerated as saintly women by their followers, what do you make of this gendered conception of marriage and divorce.
True! Some prominent female Pentecostal pioneers were divorced. One reason for this was that early Pentecostals (and North American Protestants in general) thought of the categories of “wife” and “minister” as discrete. Thus, women often felt that they had to choose between fulfilling their role as a woman in marriage and fulfilling the (presumably male) role as a minister in the pulpit. Many biographies of divorced Pentecostal women include a story of calling, resistance to that calling based on gender concerns, and then an eventual acceptance of the call. Divorce (if mentioned at all) was usually a little-discussed side effect of choosing the call of God. Woodworth-Etter and McPherson are two examples, but many (including Kuhlman, Paula White, Juanita Bynum, etc.) have followed suit.
We can draw several conclusions from this (e.g. it is difficult for powerful women also to enjoy stable marriages, celebrity revivalism often leads to sex scandals, etc.), but what I find most interesting is that the women were able to continue their ministries. This is a key question in Gender and Pentecostal Revivalism: how, in a movement that emerged from the American holiness tradition (and in a gender-anxious era), did certain women manage to maintain authority as ministers, even as one of the most powerful public signs of their womanliness disintegrated? The fact that Pentecostal revivalists managed to both condemn divorce and leave room for divorced women and men to minister shows us that the movement is incredibly adaptable. It also shows us that the ability to do revivalism well trumps just about anything – even divorce!
3.) Academia in confessional schools poses its challenges, but the more I am in academia, the more I think it’s really about people in power protecting their vested interests, and wrapping it in different kinds of urgency. The urgency to protect certain views about faith, to protect certain political positions, to protect corporate relationships with universities. What have you found most affirming/difficult about working in a confessional school?
I am only one year into my position, but I can say that it is certainly an adventure teaching at a confessional school! One thing that is always surprising is how much variety (confessional, political, personal, etc.) there is to be found in confessional schools. You can’t assume that you know what a faculty member, administrator, student, etc. thinks about faith or politics. Another thing that I’ve found fascinating is how confessional commitments influence the inner workings of an institution. My university is of the Friends persuasion, and that shapes how the university is governed, its values, decision-making, etc. That’s a big change from my historically-Methodist-currently-unaffiliated alma mater!
4) It would have been in times past, where a Pentecostal woman such as yourself would have been viewed as having too much of the wrong kind of education for going to a place like Vanderbilt, did you experience resistance to that decision? Do you think it is different for younger Pentecostal women scholars?
I do think it is different now as opposed to 20 or 30 years ago. As a kid, I remember hearing pastors repeat the old joke that theological education killed a person’s faith: “they should call it ‘cemetery,’ not ‘seminary!’” A lot of that has changed. There are some circles in which I experience a good amount of suspicion and questions about why I went to Vanderbilt, why as a woman I would want to do what I do, etc., but for the most part, I’ve been heartily encouraged and affirmed. I’ve also found that there are many younger Pentecostal women as well as some truly courageous senior scholars who are doing good work. And, I think should mention that I’ve had my fair share of well-meaning academicians ask why a Pentecostal would want to be a scholar since Pentecostals are anti-intellectual tongues-speakers. So, there are old stereotypes being deconstructed on both sides! At their best, Pentecostals are recognizing that they have something to contribute to as well as many things to learn from the academic study of religion. I am happy to be doing what I am doing now!
5) Finally, I can’t let you go without asking your opinion and getting some background from you on our mutual X-Files obsessions. I remember watching one of the first episodes in Chicago as I was nervously waiting to present at my first AAR meeting in 1994.It was the one with alien spore that was taking over the Arctic science station—I was hooked!!! What hooked you? What is your favorite episode? And what can the show runners do in the 6-episode re-boot that will keep the magic going?
This is my favorite question!!! As you know, I am a huge fan of X-Files. There is so much to love about the show, but since our topic today is gender studies, I enjoy the dynamics between Scully and Mulder. The idea that the woman is the cool-headed skeptic and the man is the hotheaded true believer is a lot of fun. Most of my favorite episodes are from the first two seasons. “Eve,” an episode about eugenics experiments gone awry is super creepy! Also, “Gender Bender,” about a religious commune with gender bending inhabitants combines many of my favorite topics: religion, gender, and science fiction. What’s not to love?
Thanks for the great questions Arlene!
You can pick up Leah’s book through the publisher or Amazon. Gender & Pentecostal Revivalism
In my post for this month and next, I will highlight the careers of some nineteenth- and twentieth-century Quakers. My hope is to inspire readers to include more Quakers on their American and religious history syllabi and expand the historical perspective beyond a few famous Quakers like John Woolman, Elias Hicks, and Lucretia Mott (though Mott should be everywhere!).
In some ways, this post might be considered a follow-up to Laura Leibman’s on the impact of scholarly articles. The two Quakers for today, Priscilla Hunt Cadwalader and George Fox White, are both courtesy of the scholarship of Tom Hamm, Professor of History at Earlham College, and author of The Transformation of American Quakerism. Hamm’s article on Cadwalader appeared in the Journal of the Early Republic (Vol. 28, No. 3, Fall 2008), and his essay on White is in the recent collection Quakers and Abolition, edited by Brycchan Carey and Geoffrey Plank. Both Cadwalader and White were allies of Elias Hicks, and Hamm’s essays illuminate the complex personal and political dynamics of the Hicksite split and its aftermath.
After she became a minister in 1817, Priscilla Coffin Hunt’s career, like Lucretia Mott’s, was bound up in the schism. During the 1820s, Quakers divided over the abusive power of the elders, their reliance of the Bible instead of the inward light, and their attachment to worldly wealth and influence, including that produced by slavery. Elias Hicks called on Quakers to return to the principle of the inward light. In many ways, Priscilla was the female Hicks, traveling from her home meeting in Indiana around the country to criticize the Orthodox (or evangelical) Quaker leaders. Hamm quotes from one of her Philadelphia sermons:
Oh, I am weary, the spirit within me is weary of high profession. For religion, is substituted opinion. Hence contentions, divisions and subdivisions; and in blind zeal and self-will the blessed Truth and its advocates are judged down, and the feet of the messengers are turned another way.
Hunt’s supporters called her “sublime, chaste, accurate and clear.” Her opponents declared “those are not the Doctrines which this society professes.” Unlike in Philadelphia and other parts of the country, most Indiana Quakers joined the Orthodox. Hunt’s Blue River meeting was one of the exceptions.
Hamm’s article is interested not only in Hunt’s ministry, but her second marriage and, more scandalously, her divorce. In 1827, the same year as the Hicksite schism, she married a minister named Joseph Cadwalader. The marriage was not a happy one, and other Quakers whispered rumors of abuse and infidelity. Two years after her marriage, Priscilla left on an eight-year ministerial journey. In 1837, Joseph sued for divorce on grounds of desertion (Indiana was then on its way to becoming the capital of quickie divorces). He got his divorce, but lost his membership in the Society of Friends for selling liquor. Hamm argues that the Society of Friends did not have any mechanisms for dealing with unhappy marriages. He also suggests that knowledge of Priscilla Hunt Cadwalader’s marital woes influenced the perspectives of the Quaker women, including Amy Post and Lucretia Mott, who attended the Seneca Falls convention in 1848.
George F. White, a New York Hicksite minister, was Lucretia Mott’s arch enemy. Hamm’s article considers White’s opposition to the anti-slavery movement in the context of the Hicksite split. In other words, how could two Hicksites (White and Mott) have such contradictory positions on abolition? Hamm explains that many Hicksites opposed the Orthodox in part due to their growing similarity to evangelical ministers. As Hamm writes, “Hicksites saw in the aggressive proselytizing and reforming fervor of the Second Great Awakening a threat to religious liberty.” White perceived participation in the anti-slavery movement, especially the American Anti-Slavery Society, as another manifestation of religious orthodoxy, bringing Quakers together with “hireling” ministers (those professionally trained and paid, unlike Quakers). As White argued in one 1840 sermon,
I believe the most powerful weapon, and which has been most destructive to the temporal happiness of man, is the usurped prerogative to designate sinners. O! how often, in the hands of a corrupt hierarchy, it has fattened the land with blood! The power and influence of hirelings the world over, and throughout all ages, have produced more suffering to the human race, than the aggregate from war, famine, pestilence, and slavery.
In retrospect, such views of the relative problems of hireling ministers and slavery seem, at best, unrealistic. Yet many Hicksites praised White’s sermons, and his views threatened to further split Society of Friends. Even as White associated abolitionists with Orthodox Quakers, his opponents, including Lucretia Mott, compared White’s methods to those of the Orthodox elders, suppressing the views of anti-slavery Friends. Despite their history of opposing slavery, radical abolition divided Friends. Hamm’s article is a useful reminder that not all Quakers were abolitionists.
In these two articles, the Hicksite split is more than a theological dispute. By investigating these individual lives, Hamm traces its ramifications within and beyond the Society of Friends, showing its impact on the way Quakers thought about women, marriage, religion, and reform.
On the New Yorker website, Nicola Twilley recently wrote about Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, a guide to the prostitutes of London published annually between 1757 and 1795.
The Wellcome Library in London recently digitized the 1787 and 1788 volumes. Twilley quotes the library’s head of research, Richard Aspin, on the volumes’ rarity.
The article also notes that there are a lot of mysteries about Harris’s List, starting with who started compiling it, who updated it over the decades, and what its real purpose was:
Aspin has no theories as to its authorship, but he brings up another point of scholarly contention: whether “Harris’s List” was actually soft-core erotic fiction, merely served up in the guise of a practical guide. “If you compare the cast of characters in these two editions, there seems to be almost a wholesale replacement of the names from one year to the next,” he points out. The book purports to list “the most celebrated ladies now on the town”—but it seems quite unlikely that the top one hundred or so prostitutes of London would really change so radically from year to year. . . .
Even assuming the descriptions are of real people, or at least based on real people, Aspin points out that eighty-six ladies (the tally in the 1787 edition; the total varies from year to year) is an infinitesimal fraction of the total number of prostitutes in London at the time, which is estimated to have been more than sixty thousand…
The world expert on Harris’s List appears to be London-based author Hallie Rubenhold, who has published a study called The Covent Garden Ladies; Pimp General Jack and the Extraordinary Story of Harris’s List and a compilation of entries from many editions. Those books don’t appear to be in print in the U.S. of A. Like the original publications, however, one ought to be able to obtain copies by asking the right people.
One of Boston 1775’s long-running questions is how much evidence there is for the belief that Margaret Gage, American-born wife of Gen. Thomas Gage, betrayed her husband by leaking his plans about the march on 18-19 Apr 1775 to Dr. Joseph Warren. After David Hackett Fischer made a case for that hypothesis in Paul Revere’s Ride, the story was widely retold at Boston historic sites.
That theory rests on the conclusion that Thomas and Margaret Gage became estranged after April 1775, with the general sending her home to England and treating her coldly thereafter. But, as I noted back here, they continued to have children.
Asa Gage of Atlanta, who notes that Margaret was “a distant cousin,” sent some additional material related to the Gages’ later life. With his permission, I’m sharing portions of his transcription of the general’s will, proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury and obtained through the British National Archives.
Margaret had two children after she returned to England, both conceived after the possible estrangement:
- Emily Gage, b. 25 Apr 1776.
- William Hall Gage, b. 2 Oct 1777.
Further, in his 1786 will the general takes very good care of Margaret, and refers to her as “beloved” on several occasions. Again, he may be bowing to convention in his language, but it does raise a question. He also made her his executrix:
…first I give unto my beloved wife Margaret Gage all my linen plate china and books together with my horses and equipage and also all my liquors of every sort and also all my pictures except my two miniature pictures . . .
it is my desire that what I have herein before given to my said wife shall be at her disposal at her pleasure. . . .
In trust to permit and suffer my wife Margaret Gage to hold and enjoy my said house in Portland Place with the appurtenances and all the goods and household furniture therein and to receive the rents and profits thereof for her own use and benefit during her life . . .
my said trustees shall during the life of my said wife receive the rents and benefits of my said plantations and estates in the island of Montserrat and do and shall pay one moiety or half part of the clear yearly rents and profits thereof unto my said wife during her natural life . . .
if any surplus should remain after the payment of my debts and funeral expenses upon trust to pay one third part of such surplus unto my said wife for her own use . . .
lastly I do hereby nominate constitute and appoint my said dear brother William Hall Lord Viscount Gage and my beloved wife Margaret Gage executor and executrix of this my last will and guardians to my children until they attain their respective ages of twenty one years
Finally, Margaret’s brother Samuel Kemble of Friday Hill, Essex County, was one of three trustees for the general’s house in Portland Place, his plantations and estates on the island of Montserrat, his 18,000 acres of land on the Mohawk River in the New York state in North America, and other miscellaneous properties.
All in all, I see evidences of a continued normal relationship between Thomas and Margaret, but haven’t found any indication of actual estrangement.
Thanks to Asa Gage for this additional information and sound analysis.
This John Singleton Copley painting, now in the collection of the North Carolina Museum of Art, shows the younger Sir William Pepperrell (1746-1816), his four children, and his late wife, the former Elizabeth Royall.
Yes, Elizabeth Pepperrell was dead when Copley created this picture in 1778. Her vacant stare in the center of the painting, and her limited interaction with the other family members, might signal how she had been dead for three years. Copley had also painted her as a teen-aged girl about twenty years before; that canvas is now at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.
In “The Ghost of a Pepperrell Lady,” Dianne Fallon laid out the story of the Pepperrells’ marriage, which ended in the summer of 1775. Elizabeth died during the siege of Boston, two months after giving birth to her fourth child and only son, William.
Sir William blamed the lack of fresh meat. He wrote to his mother in Maine, “Love I never can again, till my soul is rewedded to that of my dear Betsy’s in the Joy of praising God forever.” He took his children to England in 1776 and became a leader of the Loyalist community there. He never remarried.
In the early 1780s Mather Brown painted little William and one of his older sisters—I’m guessing Harriet, born in 1773 and on the right above. As the family heir, he’s standing and looking out at us viewers; she’s seated and looking at him.
That canvas ended up in Maine, probably owned by a member of the extended Pepperrell-Sparhawk family who didn’t leave in the war or came back afterward. For example, the children’s great-grandmother lived at Kittery Point until 1789, and she might have wanted a picture of the little ones.
In 1894 Cecil Hampden Cutts Howard wrote that that canvas had “in some inexplicable way drifted into the hands of the proprietor of The Portland Museum, from whom it was purchased by our poet, the late Mr. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.” In fact, it was bought for the poet by his brother, the Rev. Samuel Longfellow, believing it was a Copley. Henry paid far more than the painting cost to have it restored and framed, and it still hangs today in the parlor of his house, Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge.
The past week has brought a little flurry of news stories related to eighteenth-century America.
National Public Radio interviewed Ed Lengel, chief editor of the big Washington Papers Project at the University of Virginia, about the recent decision to give the same scholarly treatment to Martha Washington’s surviving letters.
Among the rarest are letters between George and Martha—she burned most of those after his death. Two survived in the back of a desk Martha gave to a relative; George had written those in the summer of 1775, explaining how he’d accepted the post of commander-in-chief and wouldn’t be back home before late fall at the earliest. Martha probably set those letters aside as special, though it’s not clear whether she meant to preserve them from the fire or just forgot about them.
The other correspondence between Martha and George Washington consists, as far as I recall, of notes she wrote on the back of other people’s letters, as Lengel describes:
One of the most interesting discoveries that I made when we were starting to assemble these papers was a letter from her son, John Parke Custis, to George Washington on September 11, 1777, the day of the Battle of Brandywine. And I was looking over the letter, and on the back was a note that nobody had paid any attention to. And it was a note, it turned out, from Martha to George that had been missed. It was a very brief note, but she begins it, my love, I wrote to you by the last post about a silver cup that I bought, and it weighed 113 ounces, something to that effect. And to me, it’s fascinating that here they are in their mid-40s, after they’ve been married almost 20 years. And, in a casual note, she calls him, my love.
Back in 1994, Joseph E. Fields compiled “Worthy Partner”: The Papers of Martha Washington, published by Greenwood Press. Fields worked on his own; he was a document collector and independent researcher, without the institutional resources or assumed authority of a university or institution. The Washington Papers edition will follow the same process and standards as its series about George’s correspondence.
N.P.R. also explored the construction and voyage of the Hermione, a replica of the ship that brought Lafayette back to America in 1780. The ship was reportedly constructed with eighteenth-century techniques, though it also includes twenty-first century plumbing. The Hermione will visit several ports along North America’s east coast this summer, from Yorktown to Halifax; scheduled stops in New England are Newport, Boston, and Castine.
I’m not sure why this project recreated the Hermione, which brought Lafayette from Rochefort to Boston in 1780, rather than the Victoire, which first brought him to America (landing near Georgetown, South Carolina) three years earlier. The Hermione was an official French naval vessel while the Victoire was a merchant ship the marquis bought to get out of France against familial and royal wishes. Maybe the plans for the Hermione are the only ones that survive. Maybe its role in the Yorktown campaign was also crucial to the choice. Anyway, it’s on its way.
The Charlottesville Daily Progress reported that Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate, has opened two log cabins and nine restored rooms in the upper stories of the main mansion for the upcoming season. The cabins are part of a new effort to show the life of people enslaved on that plantation. One is furnished to represent the home of part of the Hemings family, and the other is a workshop. Their structure was informed by archeological work on the sites of the original cabins, plus the large amount of recent documentary research on the lives of Monticello workers.
Those additions to Monticello’s public areas are part of a long-term project to restore the estate more to its appearance in Jefferson’s time. The Guardian says upcoming plans include restoring “a weavers’ cottage once used by enslaved women and Jefferson’s stable where slaves cared for his horses.” A similar project is underway at Montpelier, James Madison’s plantation, also largely underwritten by David M. Rubenstein.
This being the twenty-first century, Monticello also unveiled a smartphone app called “Slavery at Monticello: Life and Work on Mulberry Row.” It “takes users touring the south end of Monticello through the new cabins and offers virtual representations of other workshops, storehouses and dwellings that have been removed from the property in its nearly 250 years of existence.”
Yesterday I introduced the couple of John and Mary Jupp—he a deserter from the British army who had made his way to Shirley, she a woman in her late thirties who apparently had some property but no husband.
They married in late 1774 and had a daughter the following year. But in March 1777 John Jupp enlisted in the Continental Army for three years. Given that separation, could their marriage last?
Legally it did, but Pvt. John Jupp didn’t. He was discharged on 9 May 1780, recorded as having served 33 months and 22 days. (Presumably the army had deducted some time from his three years when he was away from the army recovering from illness.)
Jupp returned to Shirley and died there half a year later on 17 November. The vital records label him as an “Englishman.” James Parker’s diary records plowing and other occasional chores for Mary Jupp in the following years.
In 1785, Mary Jupp remarried to Nathan Smith, whose first wife had died the year before. Smith had seven children, his oldest sons only a few years younger than Mary. Four of those sons had served in the same regiment as John Jupp. Two, Nathan, Jr., and Sylvanus, had become captains.
On 11 Sept 1786, Parker wrote in his diary: “Nathan Smith [Jr.] marched some men to Concord In order to stop the Court Seting.” This was part of the Shays Rebellion. Though Capt. Smith made a fiery speech and was named in an arrest warrant issued that November, he didn’t emigrate from Massachusetts as other members of the movement did. Instead, he died in Shirley in 1834 at the age of ninety-six. A local historian stated that he was “coarse in habit and undisciplined in temper,” and “lost an eye in a rencounter with one of his neighbors.”
After the elder Nathan Smith died, Mary bought a new farm for herself, which she eventually passed down to the daughter of her first marriage and her grandson, Samuel Hartwell. Presumably that land eventually became the Hartwell Farm dairy in Shirley. Mary Smith died in 1826, aged 91.
Jupp had more recent military experience than most of his companions. According to Seth Chandler’s History of the Town of Shirley, Massachusetts, he
was an Englishman by birth, and a soldier of the British army that came here to enforce colonial obedience. He was connected with the military department under Governor [Thomas] Gage at Boston, previous to the outbreak of the American Revolution. He deserted from the service of the king and found his way to Shirley…
Jupp and Mary Simonds recorded their intention to marry on 12 Nov 1774 in the Shirley meeting-house (shown above in its present form).
If her death listing from 1826 was accurate, Mary Simonds was born about 1735, making her close to forty years old when she wed. I suspect she had property since Jupp was said to have “owned a small farming estate, situated near the center of the town,” and a recently deserted soldier wouldn’t have been able to buy such land.
On 16 Jan 1775, Jupp sold a silver watch for cash and three dollars on credit to James Parker (1744-1830), who was teaching school in Haskell’s shop. Again, this doesn’t seem like the sort of property a deserting soldier would have on his own, but who knows?
Jupp served with the town militia company for ten days in April 1775. Shirley’s vital records say John and Mary Jupp had a daughter on 26 September. (However, another transcription of those records indicates that the child born that day was named John; I assume that was a misreading.)
In January 1776, John Jupp was 74 miles away in the camp at Cambridge, once again serving in a militia company under Capt. Haskell. Massachusetts had called those men up to ensure the lines around Boston didn’t collapse while Gen. George Washington strove to rebuild his forces.
Then on 9 Mar 1777, John Jupp enlisted as a private in the Continental Army for three years. He was in Capt. Sylvanus Smith’s company, Col. Timothy Bigelow’s regiment—a unit that was at Saratoga and Valley Forge. Though military records state that John Jupp was “sick at Shirley” in January 1779, his wife and daughter saw little of him in those years.
TOMORROW: Can this marriage be saved?
The first book devoted to Dr. Joseph Warren was Stories about General Warren: in Relation to the Fifth of March Massacre, and the Battle of Bunker Hill, a biography for young readers published in 1835. The anonymous author was the doctor’s niece Rebecca Brown (1789-1855), shown here courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts.
Stories about General Warren took the form of a dialogue between a mother and two children named William and Mary, who say things like, “Did not all the boys like him, mamma? I am sure I should have liked him.”
The book was reviewed that year in the Southern Literary Messenger, mainly to give the reviewer a chance to write about Warren. He (and the tone almost requires one to assume the anonymous reviewer was a he) devotes a long column to “the book’s childishness of style” and “many offences far more atrocious in a critic’s eyes—sins against grammar, idiom, and good taste.” That part of the essay ended:
Let the author be entreated to get the aid of some friend who is master (if she is not mistress) of grammar and taste enough, to reform these and the other errors of her little work, and then give us a new edition, calling in all the copies of the first, that are within her reach.
Not the type of notice an author wishes to receive.
The reviewer then launched into his own version of Warren’s life. Many points of that biography are unreliable, as when it gives Warren the rank of a general months before the Massachusetts Provincial Congress did. Here’s his telling of Warren’s activity during the Battle of Lexington and Concord:
Scouts of his had notified him on the 18th of April, that a detachment of troops was to march that night towards Concord: and then, remaining himself upon the watch, he saw Colonel [Francis] Smith and 8 or 900 men embark for Charlestown [sic]. Knowing the stores and ammunition at Concord to be their object [he didn’t really], he instantly sent messengers over the surrounding country, to give the alarm; and himself rode all night [no, Warren left Boston near dawn]—passing so near the enemy, as to be more than once in great danger of capture. . . .
Warren, sleepless and in motion throughout the night, hurried to the scene of action: and, when the enemy were retreating from Concord, he was among the foremost in hanging upon their rear, and assailing their flanks. By pressing them too closely, he once narrowly escaped death. A musket ball took off a lock of hair, which curled close to his head, in the fashion of that time.
When his mother first saw him after the battle, and heard of this escape, she entreated him with tears not again to risk a life so precious. “Where danger is, dear mother,” he answered, “there must your son be. Now is no time for any of America’s children to shrink from any hazard. I will see her free, or die.”
Rebecca Brown had written something similar, but not the same:
When his mother first saw him after this escape, she entreated him, with tears in her eyes, not again to risk a life so dear to her, and so necessary to his country. “Wherever danger is, dear mother,” was his reply, “there must your son be, now is no time for one of America’s children to shrink from the most hazardous duty. I will either see my country free, or shed my last drop of blood to make her so.”
Presumably the reviewer rewrote Brown’s quote to minimize the “sins against grammar, idiom, and good taste.” He did not indicate having any better source of information.
Not that either version of the quote is probably accurate. But at least there’s a chance that Rebecca Brown had heard about that meeting from her grandmother Mary Warren, who lived until 1803.
In his History of Bradford County, Pennsylvania (1891), Henry C. Bradsby set down this unusual anecdote of the aftermath of the Revolutionary War’s first day:
Betsey Hagar…was born in Boston in 1750, and at nine years of age was left alone in the world to shift for herself. She grew up on a farm, was of a strong muscular frame, and learned to do all rough farm work, as well as being an expert at the loom.
When the Revolution broke out she was at work for a man named Leverett, in his blacksmith shop; he was very ingenious, and he and Betsey were secretly busy fixing the old match-lock guns for the patriots. She would file and grind and scour the work, and fit it as fast as he would turn it out. The two, it should be remembered, were working gratuitously—solely for the cause of freedom.
At the battle of Concord the British fled, and left six nice brass cannon, but all spiked. They were taken to Leverett’s shop, where he and his helper drilled holes opposite the spikes and then they could punch them out and stop up the hole with a screw. She worked hard at these cannon six weeks. She also made cartridges, and when her supply of flannel for this purpose gave out, she took off her underclothes and used them. At night, after the battle, she helped care for and nurse the wounded. Thus she helped during the seven years’ war.
In 1813 she married John Pratt, and they were on a rented farm at the time the “Shay rebellion” broke out, when she said: “John, you go and help kill Shay, and I will look after the crop.” John went, and she made a fine crop. Her son was Thomas Pratt.
In 1816 the family came to Burlington township [Pennsylvania], and settled on the G. A. Johnson farm. Among her other gifts was much knowledge of medicine—the herbs, roots and flowers of the country, and she often ministered to the sick, and was as much respected and “looked up to” as any person in the settlement. She lived to a green old age, dying in Granville in 1843, aged ninety-three years.
Two decades later, Harry Clinton Green and Mary Wolcott Green were looking for stories for The Pioneer Mothers of America. They put Betsy Hagar into their second volume, right before Molly Pitcher. That version added some details:
- Young Betsy was “bound out” at an early age.
- The blacksmith was named Samuel Leverett.
- John Pratt marched during the Lexington Alarm, carrying a gun that Samuel Leverett and Betsy Hagar had repaired.
- Betsy was caring for the wounded after the Battle of Lexington and Concord when she spotted the six spiked cannon.
- Betsy and John married “shortly after the close of the war.”
- In Pennsylvania, Betsy was a vocal opponent of “an English doctor named Lee” offering smallpox vaccinations in 1813. (The county history mentioned Dr. Ira Lee, but not in connection to the Pratts, who it said didn’t settle there until three years later.)
The Greens thus appear to have had additional sources for their telling—but they didn’t say what those sources were, leaving no way to evaluate them. And, as I discussed in the case of Deborah Champion, the Greens tended to smooth out contradictions in their sources instead of acknowledging reasons for doubt.
Elizabeth Pratt’s Find-a-Grave page (source of the image above) offers yet another contradictory detail, saying she died “died July 12, 1843, aged 88 years, 1 month and 4 days,” meaning she was actually born in June 1755. Those words seem to come from a more recent local history.
Alas, I’ve found no documents to confirm any of the story of Betsey Hagar. I’ve looked in Boston records for her birth or her binding out by the Overseers of the Poor. I’ve looked for a blacksmith named Samuel Leverett. Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors, volume 12, pages 691-5, lists multiple John Pratts who served in the American military during the Revolutionary War as shown by one contemporaneous document or another. That group includes at least four who marched in April 1775: from Chelsea, Dorchester, and two from Reading. But none was from Concord or a town nearby.
Most important, the part of the story that makes Betsey Hagar most significant, the repair of “six nice brass cannon” left behind by the British, is clearly a myth. The British army didn’t bring any cannon all the way to Concord, nor leave any of its own artillery behind. While in Concord, the troops did damage some cannon that the town had mounted, but those guns were made of iron. Such sources as the Massachusetts Provincial Congress records and the recollections of Dr. James Thacher show that the province had only four brass cannon at the first months of the war, none of them found by the British and spiked.
The story of Betsey Hagar, though repeated many places in the last fifty years, thus seems to be a legend that can be traced only as far back as the Pennsylvania towns where her descendants lived in the mid-1800s.
In October 1772, Mary Munroe married Samuel Sanderson, a cabinetmaker who had moved into town from Waltham four years before. A man who knew her later wrote that Sanderson was “reputed an excellent workman, and a man of strong, native, good sense, but of a rather phlegmatic and desponding temperament, with whom the world never wagged so cheerily as with many.”
The Sandersons had a boy named Amos in July 1774. Samuel’s brother Elijah also lived and worked with him in his house (shown here, courtesy of the Boston Public Library’s Flickr collection).
In April 1775, Samuel Sanderson was a corporal in the Lexington militia, standing on the common as the British column arrived. Local historian Michael J. Canavan recorded this story about how Mary Sanderson experienced the outbreak of war:
When he heard that the British were coming he piloted his wife over to her father’s carrying his babe, and accompanied by a little girl who was at their house. Over at Scotland they found the mother getting breakfast and the brothers at first did not believe the report.
After the British retreated Mary returned home and found a good many things had been stolen. Her cow (which was a good part of her marriage portion) had been killed; and a wounded British soldier was stowed away in her bed. She cried out “I wont hae him there. Why didn’t you knock him on the head?”
But the town authorities insisted he be taken care of. . . . The soldier begged for Tea but she refused. “what for should I gae him tae for? He shall hae none.”
The wounded man refused to eat or drink unless the food was tasted by some of the family.
Despite crippling arthritis, Mary Sanderson lived to be a centenarian. On 23 Sept 1852 the women of Lexington organized a “levee” in her honor at the town hall, with refreshments and music. It raised $300. She died less than a month later at the age of 104.
As I quoted yesterday, Otis wrote that he’d heard his daughter’s husband had left her, and that she was suffering from consumption, and then he bequeathed her five shillings. And that was supposed to be in a moment of sanity.
I haven’t found any indication that those rumors were true. Elizabeth Brown lived for decades. And while I can’t confirm the Browns lived together happily, they remained a couple.
In October 1785, after John Adams became the U.S. of A.’s minister to Britain, Elizabeth Brown contacted him, saying, “my Comp[limen]ts: attend Mrs: Adams and inform her I still retain a pleasing remembrance of the agreeable Week I pass’d with her at Plymouth.” She said that she was living “at Leonard Browns Esqr. Sleaford Lincolnshire”—probably her father-in-law’s house.
The biggest problem Elizabeth Brown faced then was not the lack of money from her father but lack of access to bequests from other relatives. Two months later Brown laid out her difficulty for Adams:
my Grandfather at the Decease of my much’d Hond: Father Bequeath’d me one Thousand pound Lawfull Money which his Executors M: J— and Mr: A— Otis were to pay me, and I expected to receive the interest. untill it was convenient to them, to pay the principal
“M: J— and Mr: A— Otis” were Brown’s uncles Joseph Otis and Samuel Allyne Otis. Her uncle by marriage, James Warren, was supposed to be her attorney in Massachusetts, receiving and passing on the money. But the Otises’ business had failed in the tough postwar American economy, so they didn’t have any cash to send. And Warren wasn’t representing Elizabeth Brown’s interests well.
Poor Mrs Brown, who was Betsy Otis, had all her Grandfather left her, in the Hands of Mr Allen otis and Genll Warren. She has written several Letters to mr Adams upon the subject requesting his advice what to do. Her Father left her nothing. It is very hard she Should lose what her Grandfather left her.
The case hung on. In 1789, Elizabeth’s mother, Ruth Otis, died, leaving her more wealth.
Finally, in February 1790 the Massachusetts legislature passed a law allowing “Leonard Brown and his Wife” to take possession of land belonging to Samuel Allyne Otis as he went through bankruptcy and to sell it to satisfy a debt to them. The attorneys in that settlement were Harrison Gray Otis, Otis’s son, and William Tudor, Adams’s former clerk and father of James Otis’s future biographer.
According to William Tudor, Jr., Elizabeth Brown made “a short visit in 1792” to Massachusetts, perhaps to wrap up those bequests. He also wrote that her husband, “coming into possession of a handsome property, resigned his commission” in the army and retired to a genteel life in the British countryside. That might have been in 1796, when the Monthly Magazine reported the death “At Sleaford, aged 82, Leonard Brown, esq. of Pinchbeck, for many years a magistrate for the district of Kesteven.”
As I wrote yesterday, St. Mary’s church in Pinchbeck (shown above) contains an inscription about the death of Capt. Brown in 1821. Tudor wrote that Elizabeth Brown was still alive at that time. According to Lincolnshire Pedigrees (which names her father as “Thomas Otis of Boston”), Elizabeth Brown died 18 Apr 1839 at age eighty-two.
That same genealogical book says that Elizabeth and Leonard Brown had a son, also named Leonard, born around 1777. He lived until 1848 and was survived by his widow, Anne. I found gossip about them in Letters of James Savage to His Family, privately printed in 1906. Savage was a genealogist, and in 1842 he went to Britain, determined to track down James Otis’s descendants. Writing from the other Boston, he told his wife what he’d heard about this Leonard Brown: “he was domineered over by his mother, after father’s death, and had only within a short time married his housekeeper or cook, and had no children.” And that was the end of that branch of the Otis family.