You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Colonial Women of Edenton Rebel

Not Your Typical Tea Party

On October 25, 1774, a group of women in Edenton, NC, formed an alliance to support the American cause against taxation without representation.

Mrs. Penelope Barker

Following the example set by the Boston Tea Party, fifty-one women, organized by Mrs. Penelope Barker and meeting at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth King, drew up resolves declaring their intention to boycott English tea and English cloth.

The custom of tea drinking was deeply instilled in the colonists’ lives. Almost every home had a tea service, and social occasions were often defined by the amount of tea served. So, swearing off tea was no small matter.

From the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, January 16, 1775, came the following account of the Edenton Tea Party and the only authentic list of signers of the resolutions.

Extract of a letter from North Carolina, Oct. 27:
The Provincial Deputies of North Carolina having resolvd not to drink any more tea, nor wear any more British cloth, &c. many ladies of this Province have determined to give a memorable proof of their patriotism, and have accordingly entered into the following honourable and spirited association. I send it to you, to shew your fair countrywomen, how zealously and faithfully American ladies follow the laudable example of their husbands, and what opposition your Ministers may expect to receive from a people thus firmly united against them.

As we cannot be indifferent on any occasion that appears nearly to affect the peace and happiness of our country, and as it has thought necessary, for the public good, to enter into several particular resolves by a meeting of Members deputed from the whole Province, it is a duty which we owe, not only to our near and dear connections who have concurred in them, but to ourselves who are essentially interested in their welfare, to do everything as far as lies in our power to testify our sincere adherence to the same; and we do therefore accordingly subscribe this paper, as a witness of our fixed intention and solemn determination to do so.

Abagail Charlton         Mary Blount
F. Johnstone                Elizabeth Creacy
Margaret Cathcart       Elizabeth Patterson
Anne Johnstone          Jane Wellwood
Margaret Pearson        Mary Woolard
Penelope Dawson       Sarah Beasley
Jean Blair                    Susannah Vail
Grace Clayton             Elizabeth Vail
Frances Hall                Elizabeth Vail
Mary Jones                  Mary Creacy
Anne Hall                    Mary Creacy
Rebecca Bondfield     Ruth Benbury
Sarah Littlejohn          Sarah Howcott
Penelope Barker          Sarah Hoskins
Elizabeth P. Ormond Mary Littledle
M. Payne                     Sarah Valentine
Elizabeth Johnston      Elizabeth Crickett
Mary Bonner               Elizabeth Green
Lydia Bonner             Mary Ramsay
Sarah Howe                Anne Horniblow
Lydia Bennet             Mary Hunter
Marion Wells               Tresia Cunningham
Anne Anderson           Elizabeth Roberts
Sarah Mathews           Elizabeth Roberts
Anne Haughton          Elizabeth Roberts
Elizabeth Beasly          

The Edenton Tea Party shocked the Western world, and when news of it reached Britain, because it was a political effort by women, it was met with ridicule and sarcasm.

Political Cartoon Regarding the
Edenton Tea Party

For example, in January 1775, Arthur Iredell wrote the following to his brother, James Iredell:

Is there a female congress at Edenton, too? I hope not, for we Englishmen are afraid of the male congress, but if the ladies, who have ever since the Amazonian era been esteemed the most formidable enemies: if they, I say, should attack us, the most fatal consequence is to be dreaded. So dextrous in the handling of a dart, each wound they give is mortal: whilst we, so unhappily formed by nature, the more we strive to conquer them, the more we are conquered. The Edenton ladies, conscious, I suppose, of this superiority on their side, by a former experience, are willing, I imagine, to crush us into atoms by their omnipotency: the only security on our side to prevent the impending ruin, that I can perceive, is the probability that there are but few places in America which possess so much female artillery as Edenton.

Although political resistance was common in the 1770s, an organized women’s movement was not. Until Mrs. Barker and her friends took their action, women simply did not engage in political discourse in the US or abroad. Their actions were even more extraordinary, for where the men of the Boston Tea Party wore costumes and face paint to hide their identity, these Edenton wives and mothers wanted to send the king a clear and strong message, so they courageously signed their names to their petition, knowing that they were committing an act of treason against British rule.

There was one unexpected consequence brought about by the Edenton Tea Party. Mrs. Barker’s husband Thomas was stationed in London as North Carolina’s appointed agent to Parliament. When word came that his wife had organized a rebellion at home, he was forced to flee to France and did not return to North Carolina until 1778.

Edenton Tea Party Monument

Sometimes called the Edenton Rebellion, the event later became known as the Edenton Tea Party and was one of the earliest organized women’s political actions in United States history. It was a valiant representation by American women of the frustrations with English rule and the need for separation and independence.

Edenton Tea Party Historical Marker

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