Talking Politics and Feeling “Nationly”:
Female Patriotism in Colonial America
When one thinks of the Revolutionary War, the first names that come to mind are George Washington, Paul Revere, Thomas Jefferson, and Patrick Henry. The only female who ever seems important is Betsy Ross, the woman who sewed the American flag. Abigail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, and the women who called themselves “daughters of liberty” proved that the American Revolution paved the way for women’s independence. It was also a revolution that changed not only the course of history but also the role that women played: they finally began to participate and be recognized in both society and politics, even if their efforts included simply abstaining from tea and spinning their own cloth.
Prior to this time period, women had played the same role for generations. They were homemakers, in charge of cooking, cleaning, caring for children, and keeping everything in the house in order. The woman’s goal was to be “notable,” or to “manage her household affairs skillfully and smoothly” (Norton 4). Ladies were expected to be the picture of femininity: “’pure, tender, delicate, irritable, affectionate, flexible, and patient’” (Norton 112). They showed their patriotism simply by encouraging husbands and sons to fight for the colonial cause. (Marsh n. pg.) Politics were never discussed as that was the man’s sphere and showed an undesirable masculine quality of mind (Marsh n. pg.). As the Revolution deepened, however, women would take on more significant roles and show their patriotism in more obvious ways.
“The first political act of American women was to say ‘no’” to tea (Berkin 13). The Townshend Act of 1767 applied taxes to items imported to the colonies from Britain such as tea, sugar, coaches, glue, gloves, and shoes. These taxes paid the expenses of the British troops that were protecting the American colonies (Berkin 15). Many patriots viewed these taxes as unfair, and...