1600s, early 1700s, most women & good number of men not politically involved;

Revolution -- people asking, who is a citizen & what does that mean, who has the right to rule & who should subject themselves to being ruled?

1760s rising economic tensions between Brtain and her colonies:

1764 Revenue Act (Sugar Act)

1765 Stamp Act

1767 Navigation Acts 


Women absent on formal level (since Aristotle, politics & life in public sphere for men)

"It is not for me, unacquainted as I am with politics and the laws, to say with what propriety this was done." 


"I verily believe this is the first Sentence of Politicks that ever crept into a letter of mine -- whether 'tis orthodox or not I dare not determine -- for I'm very ignorant of these matters."


Mercy Otis Warren:

although politics was "a subject... much out of the road of female attention," still, "as every domestic enjoyment depends on the decision of the mighty contest, who can be an unconcerned and silent spectator? Not surely the fond mother, or the affectionate wife who trembles lest her dearest connections should fall victims of lawless power…"

1774: Warren wrote Abigail about "the state Farce which has for several years been playing off.  I fear that Tragic part of the Drama will hastely Ensue, and that Nothing but the Blood of the Virtuous citizens can repurchase the Right of nature, unjustly torn from us by the united arms of treachery and violence." 

Abigail: "I would not have my friend imagine that with all my fears and apprehension, I would give up one Iota of our rights and privileges… we cannot be happy without being free… we cannot be free without being secure in our property… we know too well the blessings of freedom to tamely resign it."


1770s Warren's plays, poems widely printed

1797 Warren refers to self as a "politician".


"Sons of Liberty" appeal to "Daughters of Liberty" - consumer boycott of British goods.

1769 South Carolina leader: "I come now to the last, and what many say & think is the greatest difficulty of all we have to encounter, that is, to persuade our wives to give us their assistance, without which ‘tis impossible to succeed… Let their husbands point out the necessity of such conduct; convince them that it is the only thing that can save them and their children from distress, slavery, and disgrace; their affections will soon be awakened… I am persuaded that they will be then as anxious and persevering in this matter, as any the most zealous of us can possibly wish."

patriotic spinning bees (between 1768 & 1770, more than 46)

New England women sign petition to abstain from drinking imported tea "to save their abused country from ruin and slavery," to fight Parliament's "unconstitutional" acts. 

Philadelphia woman wrote:

For the sake of Freedom's name

Since British Wisdom scorns repealing,

Come, sacrifice to Patriot fame

And give up Tea, by way of healing.


North Carolina, 51 women pass resolution to boycott British goods: "As we cannot be indifferent on any occasion that appears to affect the peace and happiness of our country,… it is a duty we owe." 

Criticism  - women becoming mannish;

Join in crowd action;


Loyalist women under attack;


1774 Continental Congress in Philadelphia;

1776 Declaration of Independence, "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

war breaks out, April 1775.


Prominent women of Philadelphia (Franklin's daughter) canvassed city, raise $300,000 -- Inspired women of New Jersey, Maryland

Methods of political mobilization -- organized committees, publicity, set up networks - justifying women's involvement. 


Pamphlet: The Sentiments of an American Woman: women were "born for liberty, disdaining to bear the irons of a tyrannic Government," that "if the weakness of our Constitution, if opinion and manners did not forbid us to march to glory by the same paths as the men," women would still demonstrate loyalty.


Abigail Adams - ran farm;

Connecticut & NJ rape cases - British commander: "The fair nymphs of this [area] are in wonderful tribulation.  A girl cannot step into the bushes to pluck a rose without running the most imminent risk of being ravished… we have the most entertaining court-martials every day."


up to 20,000 women with army - cooks, nurses, doing laundry, dig graves, strip bodies;


Battlefield - Deborah Sampson (Gannett) (in male disguise)  -- served at Yorktown.

Born 1760, Massachusetts;

Age ten, indentured servant;

Age twenty, travelling in men's clothes;

1781 decision to enlist in American Army -- caught, confronted, excommunicated;

1782 enlists again as "Robert Shurtleff"

served 17 months, wounded;

fever -- discovered;

honorable discharge;

later petition for back pay -- General Court of Massachusetts ruled, "Deborah exhibited an extraordinary instance of female heroism by discharging the duties of a faithful gallant soldier and at the same time preserving her virtue and chastity of her sex unsuspected and unblemished."

1802 public speaking about her experience:

desire to "throw off the soft habiliment of my sex" --

but also, "I am willing to acknowledge what I have done an error and presumption…. I swerved from the accustomed flowery path of female delicacy."


"Molly Pitcher";

spies & saboteurs;

 General George Washington complained that "Women of the Army" were an "incumbrance, a clog upon every movement".


What was the long-term impact of women's political mobilization during the Revolution?  How did it affect ideas about women as citizens in the new U.S.? What role could & should women play in the new nation?

American Independence, 1783.

Abigail Adams - "We are no ways dispirited here, we possess a Spirit that will not be conquered.  If our Men are all drawn off and we should be attacked, you would find a Race of Amazons in America."

"What a politician you have made me."


1776: "Remember the Ladies and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.  Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands.  Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could…. Emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining absolute power over Wives…. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies, we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice or representation. "

law of coverture;

Virginia widow Mary Byrd 1781 complained about paying taxes without representation; elections "tumultuous assemblies", inappropriate for women. Constitution no mention of women.  No women on juries -- therefore, no trial before peers.


New Jersey state constitution 1776, gave vote to all free residents above certain wealth;

1780 a few women voted; 

1790 election law referred to voters as "he or she," "maid or widow, black or white". 

1797 election - women voters tip balance;

1807 NJ again excluded "undesirables" (women & blacks) from vote 


women's lives refocus from public to private;

biological nature as a dependent nurturer and moral guardian -- "Republican Motherhood";

shape sons as good future citizens & daughters as good mothers;

1802: "Mothers do in a sense hold the reins of government and sway the ensigns of national prosperity and glory."

Women's education - Abigail Adams 1778: "I regret the trifling narrow contracted Education of the Females of my own country.  You need not be told how much female Education is neglected, nor how fashionable it has been to ridicule Female learning." 

Judith Sergeant Murray: "My daughters… should be taught with precision the art economical; they should be able to procure for themselves the necessaries of life; independence should be placed within their grasp."

Boston minister: "Women of masculine minds have generally masculine manners."


Philadelphia, Savannah academies or "seminaries" for girls - add history & literature to traditional feminine graces (music, dancing, drawing, fine needlework);

Emma Willard, 1821 seminary for women - Troy, NY -- first endowed educational institution for women in US -- 300 middle-class students, training girls to teach. 

Mary Lyon, 1837, Mount Holyoke Seminary -- domesticity, piety, teaching.


1780s & 1790s economic crisis;


Ideas of republican motherhood don't fit African-American or Native American women.

   Post-Revolution women organized service & reform societies (widows & orphans) - handled significant money -- set stage for abolitionist & reform movements.