"Persons of Consequence": The Women of Boston and the Making of the American Revolution, 1765-1776

Title"Persons of Consequence": The Women of Boston and the Making of the American Revolution, 1765-1776
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsYoung, Alfred F.
Book TitleLiberty Tree: Ordinary People and the American Revolution
PublisherNew York University Press
CityNew York

On March 31, 1776, three months before the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, Abigail Adams, writing from the family farm she was managing in Braintree, Massachusetts, to her husband, John, a delegate to the Congress in Philadelphia, closed her long report on local affairs with a comment that has won a deserved notoriety as the opening manifesto of American feminism. "I long to hear that you have declared an independency – and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would 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… If perticular 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.” What prompted so extravagant and passionate a threat? What made Abigail Adams think, even half-seriously, that it was possible in the spring of 1776 to "foment a Rebelion” among women? What activities had women engaged in during the momentous decade since the Stamp Act protests of 1765? What roles had they played? What was the relative importance of these activities? And, finally, had these led, in any way, to a change in women's consciousness? Did others have a "List of Female Grievances"? 

To answer these questions, we will focus on the women of Boston from 1765 to 1776, first, because Boston was indisputably one of the most important centers of the political resistance to Britain, and, second, because the activities of the women of Boston are recoverable. The evidence, however fragmentary and frustrating, permits us to track in bold outlines women's activities and to speculate about their consciousness. [Author]


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