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Tea Party Winners: Carla Gade's winner is Becky Dempsey, Andrea Boeshaar's winner Caryl Kane, Gina Welborn's winner Jasmine A., Carrie Fancett Pagels' winners book copy -- Lynda Edwards, teacup and saucer -- Wendy Shoults

Friday, July 27, 2012

Colonial Women of Edenton Rebel: Not Your Typical Tea Party

By Susan F. Craft

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

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.

RESOLVED
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.
British newspaper caricature of 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, NC Tea Party Commemorative 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.
Historical Marker

17 comments:

  1. Really awesome post, I enjoyed it! (Poor John Barker, I can only imagine his chagrin!)

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  2. Thank you, Marie, so glad you enjoyed it. It took a lot of courage for those women to do what they did. I wish I could find out more about other repercussions besides that of John Barker.

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    1. Edenton ladies ROCK!! I mean really-that is amazing. Thanks for sharing this, Susan!!!

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  3. Wow. This is fascinating, Susan!!! I had no idea. What brave brave women!! I loved the sarcasm in the English response. They were such pompous brutes. LOL. Thank you for the post!!

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    1. I know I say it often -- maybe too often -- but I wish my history classes would have included more information about the contributions of women to the founding or our nation. And yes, the article dripped with sarcasm!

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  4. Wouldn't you have liked to be a mouse in the corner when John Barker got home? I applaud the sentiment, but the timing might not have been the best -- he could have been killed or imprisoned. I wonder if he was "in the loop" or surprised. Thanks Susan for an interesting post.

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    1. Janet, although there was such a thing as diplomatic courtesy back then, it was often violated and for much less cause, so the possibility was real that Mr. Barker could have been imprisoned. It would be interesting to read the letters back and forth between John and his wife. A headstrong woman passionate enough about her views to risk treason married to a diplomat, one who had to keep calm and mannerly in an atmosphere that must have been fraught with tension. Would make for an interesting novel, don't you think?

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  5. Hello Susan, great Post, I had no Idea about these courageous Woman .
    Thank you so much.
    God bless
    Ingrid

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    1. Ingrid, I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I've made it a kind of crusade of mine to shine a light on the contributions of women in history. Discovering stories like these is great fun for me and sharing it with people like you who appreciate it is even more fun.

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  6. Where ever did you come upon this? I feel so isolated way out west in Kansas.

    Love the story - (and the ensuing sarcasm). The American Revolution must have created some interesting interpersonal conversations in households, I would imagine.

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  7. Judith, researching history, especially the American Revolution, is a passion of mine. Finds like this story are "my treasures." I imagine the conversations were interesting in many ways as this was the first "civil war" in America. Families, neighbors, communities were broken up when people chose opposite sides of the fight. This was a conflict in and among people -- not one that was fought "out there somewhere." People's homes were burned and their livelihoods ruined by not only the British, but by family and neighbors. There were several battles fought in South Carolina that involved very few British soldiers. It was patriot against loyalist. After the war, it was people like Brigadier General Francis Marion who urged forgiveness and reconciliation as well as a focus on coming together to nurture a new nation.

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  8. Wow! Go women!! I can guarantee that if I had been there, I would have signed. This makes me proud :)

    And yes, if there is anyone with writing talent who would like to turn this story into a novel - PLEASE DO!! :D

    Thanks so much for sharing!

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  9. A slight correction. Penelope's husband name was Thomas.

    Dennis, Edenton

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    1. Thanks so much, Dennis. I had her first husband's name in my notes and should have caught that.

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  10. I never knew this piece of history! Thank you for sharing!

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  11. As an ancestor of four of these wonderful, courages women, it makes me proud that they had the courage of their convictions. Of course I knew about the Edenton Tea Party, but I never tire of hearing it. When I am in Edenton I always go by the "Tea Pot Commemorative Momument."

    Elizabeth

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