America’s Revolutionary War
I don’t know if it’s America’s fascination with the Broadway musical “Hamilton” or if it’s a wish to get back to our roots, but lately a lot has been discussed about the Revolutionary War. But to honor our beginnings, and to celebrate America’s Independence Day, I’d like to discuss some of the lesser known men and women who made the Revolution possible.
But let’s start with those who are better known. A lot was written during America’s early days on how government should be run, and many who wrote these scholarly works made their way into our history books. Thomas Jefferson was only 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.
He later became America’s third president.
Thomas Paine is best known for his book, Common Sense, written in 1776, and which crystallized the reasons for fighting for independence from Britain.
Now, to some who aren’t as famous. Dr. Joseph Warren wrote a series of scathing articles for the Boston Gazette under the pen name of A True Patriot, which greatly upset British loyalists and royal governor Francis Bernard. Dr. Warren died at the battle of Bunker Hill.
Chances are you’ve heard of these men. But there were also women involved in the war effort. Arguably the most notable of these was Mercy Otis Warren, sister of James Otis, who was an activist in the Revolution. Mercy was an American poet, historian and dramatist. Her close ties to the political leaders of the day from association with her brother gave her access to some of the greatest minds of the day. She married James Warren, speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, so her affiliation with the leaders of the Independence movement were not only through her family, but also through marriage.
Her series of essays during this period represented ways in which females could show their support for the war effort. She fought for equal representation for women in the Constitution, an appeal that was not resolved until the Bill of Rights was written. Her unique vantage point and her flair for writing made her both a poet and a historian of the era, and most notably, the first woman in the States to have her work offered to the public. In 1788, she penned a pamphlet under the pseudonym “A Columbian Patriot.” The document, Observations on the new Constitution, and on the Federal and State Conventions, opposed ratification of the Constitution unless it included the Bill of Rights. This pamphlet was long thought to be the work of others, so it was not until a descendent of hers cleared the record years later did it become accepted knowledge that it was indeed penned by Mercy Warren. In 1805, she published a three-volume set of the earliest histories of the Revolutionary War, the History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution. This was the first historical writing authored by a woman.
John and Abigail Adams were close friends of Mercy’s, and John became her literary mentor. In a letter to her husband, Adams said “Tell your wife that God Almighty has entrusted her with the Powers for the good of the World, which, in the cause of his providence, he bestows on few of the human race. That instead of being a fault to use them, it would be criminal to neglect them.”
Mercy Warren died on October 19, 1814. A World War II Liberty ship was named in her honor in 1943. In 2002, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY, and is a featured part of the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail.
Despite the limited opportunity for education and advancement of women during her lifetime, Mercy Warren showed remarkable courage to put her thoughts to paper about an authoritative power threatening to undermine the colonies. She spoke out against tyranny for many years following the resolution of the war.
So, as we head into our Independence Day celebration, let’s not forget our founding fathers and our founding mothers, who helped make this country the best in the world. Happy Fourth of July, everyone.
Becky Lower’s fascination with the Revolutionary War has led to two manuscripts set in Boston in the early days of the conflict. She loves spending her days in the midst of an uprising, and wishes she could have been there when it all went down.