The Founding Mothers
In our last blog post and podcast abuot the Schuyler Sisters, you learned all about the women from this prominent New York family and of their contributions to the Revolutionary War. If you tuned into this week's bonus episode, you also got to listen in on a little debate that we had over whether or not Hamilton the Musical accurately represents women in a feminist light. Then, we scanned out a little bit, leaving the Schuyler-Hamilton circle, to bring some other key women into the picture. The women we discussed were Phillis Wheatley, Mercy Otis Warren, Deborah Samson, and Tyonajanegen. Deborah and Tyonajanegen fought as soldiers in the American Revolution, and both were recognized for their contributions to the war. Years after the war, Debora became the first woman to give a lecture tour, during which she spoke about her experiences in the war. It was uncommon in general for women to be soldiers at the time, but it would have been especially strange to see a Native American woman, like Tyonajanegen, fighting on the side of the Americans. Not surprisingly, since Native Americans had been invaded and attacked by Americans time and time again, most chose to support the British over the Americans because they saw the British as the lesser of two evils. Here is a video about Native American women during the American Revolution from Carol Berkin, professor of History at Baruch College in New York:
Phillis and Mercy, on the other hand, didn't wield pistols or disguise themselves as men to fight for freedom. Their weapon, instead, was the pen. I included these women because, while we typically associate the word "revolution" with war and bloodshed, there is another, equally as important definition of revolution. The dictionary defines revolution as "a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people's ideas about it." This is exactly the kind of revolution that Phillis, America's first African-American poet, and Mercy, a political writer and playwright, sparked.
Collected poems of Phillis Wheatley. She was still enslaved when she published this book, and was freed two years later in October 1775.
Mercy stoked the same fire that men like John Locke and Thomas Paine did, urging the colonists to demand freedom. She was a correspondent and advisor to several founding fathers such as Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and John Adams. Phillis, although if you read her poems you will see that she was quite brainwashed by her white Christian captors, was an absolute trailblazer for black poets and writers for years to come.
Schuyler Sister Letters
Cornelia to Catherine
Angelica to Catherine
Eliza to Catherine