Timothy R. Van Deursen
Introduction to US History I
The United States of America as we know it today, is a country that perpetuates the idea of the “land of the free and home of the brave.” Many take this statement for granted now and do not immediately recognize the effort that was put forth by many of our ancestors to establish a country where we could be free. From the first settlement of the new world, to the revolution, to industrialization, and to present day, many of the liberties and freedoms that exist today would have never been possible without the courage of a few to inspire many to stand up against a power that controlled so much of people’s daily lives. During the time in America when the British were in control, people considered many of their policies and laws put in place were unfair and unjust, such as taxes, restrictions, and the leaders they appointed. This series of social, political, and intellectual transformations in society and government are what led to a political upheaval known as the American Revolution.
The American Revolution began in 1765 after Americans rejected the authority of the British Parliament to impose taxes. Like all revolutions, it had for the most part, a double agenda. This is that patriots wanted to exclude British power, and also to accomplish a radical psychological and intellectual transformation. As protests continued to escalate, the British responded by imposing retaliatory laws known as the Coercive Acts, or in America known as the Intolerable Acts. These came after a significant historical event known as the Boston Tea Party, in which protestors, fed up with the taxation imposed on Americans, boarded a British ship carrying tea, and threw it into the Boston Harbor. The resulting legislation (1) closed the port of Boston until the city fully compensated the East India Company for the lost tea; (2) restructured the Massachusetts government by transforming the upper house from an elective to an appointed body and restricting the number of legal town meetings to one a year; (3) allowed the royal governor to transfer British officials arrested for offenses committed in the line of duty to England, where there was likelihood they would be convicted; and (4) authorized the army to quarter troops wherever they needed, even if this required the compulsory requisition of uninhabited private buildings.1 In April of 1775, the first shots of what is known as the Revolutionary War were fired at Lexington and Concord. This marked the beginning of a war that would last until the eventual Paris Peace Treaty in 1783. The war that would end up encompassing the nation for the next 8 years brought forth stories of turmoil, agony, but most of all patriotism and heroism. Many depictions, whether they be through art, film, or history literature, focus on the battles and tactics featured throughout the war. Absent from many of these representations are the role that women played in not only the revolutionary effort, but maintaining a home for the soldiers to eventually come back to in order to restart a life which would be changed forever.
Elizabeth Ellet was the first historian to address the relationship of women to the revolution. Ellet’s grandfather was a soldier in the Revolutionary War which led to her fascination with the subject and her eventual publication of biographical sketches of sixty women who lived through and played an integral role in the revolution. She is quoted as saying that “the actions of men stand out in prominent relief” but the actions of women occurred in the private “woman’s sphere” and for these activities, documentation was deficient.2 What Ellet
1 Divine, Robert A. America, Past and Present. 10th ed. 1 vols. Boston: Pearson, 2013.
2 Hoffman, Ronald, and Peter J. Albert, eds. Women in the Age of the American Revolution. Perspectives On the American Revolution. Charlottesville: