WELCOME TO THE BLOG IN THE WORDS OF WOMEN

Based largely on the book of the same name, the blog is a kind of trailer for it and the primary source material it contains. An invitation, you might say … to eavesdrop on the lives of women writing 250 years ago … to become acquainted with 144 little-known but amazingly articulate chroniclers … and to discover a valuable new perspective on the Revolutionary Era.

The women featured lived between 1765 and 1799. But once you attune your ears to their way of writing, their voices easily leapfrog across the centuries. Read just a few sentences and you’ll find yourself back in time, entering their concerns, sharing their feelings. And what they have to say is always fascinating, often eye-opening, sometimes heart-rending.

Please bookmark the blog and visit regularly to see which writers and issues are being featured. There are two new posts weekly: on Monday and Thursday. And do explore those related to the many topics listed on the right. In addition to posts based on the book, others introduce the writings of women who didn’t make it into the book or who turn up as a result of ongoing research. To subscribe via email, click here. Leave a comment. Email a question. And enjoy your visits.

“who but you . . . are the Cock of the Company”

For your delectation, more gossipy correspondence between two Maryland girls: Henrietta Tilghman (the sister of Tench Tilghman who was an aide to General Washington) and her cousin Mary Pearce known as Polly. (See previous posts here and here.) Henrietta wrote again to Polly from Bayside, April 3, 1785[?].

My Dear Polly
I might as well be out of the world as to hearing from you, tho’ you might write at any time and send your Letters to Molly who would enclose them to me, but you are a lazy Mortal, and I am afraid will not mend as you grow older, but rather be worse. I spent two happy days about a week ago with Grandmama . . . she is in very good Health and Spirits, and only waits for good weather to go to my aunts. She desires me to give her best Love to you all when I wrote to you again, and accordingly, I have complied with my promise. So you have been frolicking it at Chester Town, I have heard of your fine doings I assure you such a thing could never be brought to bear when I was at Home, tho’ I used both prayers; and intreaties, but my back is no sooner turned than you whip down, who but you, and are the Cock of the Company, (to use an Expression of Sally Chews*) you have but one way to make up for it, and that is to persuade Harry [Polly's brother] to bring you down to see me, tell him if he will come I will contrive to get one of my Cousins down from Queen Ann’s to keep him Company. I really am anxious to know whether Harry will succeed or not; I am sure he has my good wishes, and I am sure I shew my regard for him when I wish him that Lady for a wife. I am not partial to her because she is my relation, for that out of the Question, I think she will make any Man Happy who has the good luck to gain her affections, and I wish that man may be your Brother. Mr Tilghman desires me to give his Love to you, and tell you that as he does not expect I shall live very long, he expects you will hold yourself in readiness to perform your promise of being Mistress of the Bayside but I say do not put much dependance on that, for it has been proved that our family tho’ they may have a great deal of sickness are very tough, and some of them have as many lives as a Cat and I may happen to be one of that kind, so that my advice to you is to look out for some clever fellow to keep you Company in the meantime. The Baron I hear is at last a going to be Married, so that your opinion of his being born odd was without foundation, they say there was never a Jack in the World that could not find a Jill, and truly I am inclined to be of that opinion. . . .
Hentre M. Tilghman
* Sarah Chew, the daughter of Chief Justice Benjamin Chew of Philadelphia

The identity of the Baron is uncertain. I don’t think “being born odd” suggests that he was gay; I believe it merely means that although he was a bit strange he could still find a woman who would marry him.

The letter can be found on this SITE, pages 35-36.

posted August 31st, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Courtship, Marriage, Pearce, Polly, Tilghman, Henrietta (Hetty)

“Niagara Falls: the grandest sight imaginable”

The article I wrote for the online Journal of the American Revolution has appeared. “Niagara Falls: the grandest sight imaginable” is in the August issue and can be found here. I enjoyed doing it as it involved more research into primary sources—I had to include the observations of a few men in addition those of the women (which I already had as a result of my work on the book In the Words of Women). Do have a look. You might want to subscribe to this Journal which is relatively new; it has a number of interesting articles in each issue. I’m searching for another topic on which to write a piece.

The illustration is a watercolor of Niagara Falls from the Canadian side painted by Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim Graves Simcoe in 1791.

Morristown, New Jersey, 1777

My colleagues and I gave a presentation at the National Historic Site in Morristown, New Jersey earlier this month. I’m on the left (the blogger Janet Wedge); Landa Freeman is in the center; and Louise North is on the right, We three are the compilers/editors of In the Words of Women. The museum and the auditorium were lovely. Unfortunately the lure of the Jersey shore on that hot Sunday resulted in a rather small audience, nevertheless our presentation was well received. Louise North was able to include quite a lot of material from her new book The Travel Journals of Henrietta Marchant Liston. And I got to read this wonderful letter to her sister-in-law by MARTHA DANGERFIELD BLAND who joined her husband, a member of George Washington’s staff, in Morristown in 1777 during a lull in the fighting. Considering this was after a severe winter and in the middle of a war with Britain, everyone seemed to be having a rather nice time.

May 12, 1777. . . . I left Philadelphia last month (the first day) & came to Morristown where Genl Washington keeps Headquarters. Mrs. Washington had arrived three weeks before me, so that I could with a good face make a visit to Camp. . . . I had many Qualms of consiance about visiting a camp. . . . I found Morris a very clever little village, situated in a most beautiful valley at the foot of 5 mountains. It has three houses with steeples which give it a consequential look . . . it has two familys—refugees from New York in it otherwise it is inhabited by the errentest rusticks you ever beheld—you cannot travil three miles without passing through one of these villages all of them having meeting houses and court houses &c &c, decorated with steeples which gives them a pretty Airy look & the farmes between the mountains are the most rural sweet spots in nature, their medows of a fine luxuriant grass which looks like a bed of velvet interspersed with yellow blue and white flowers. They represent us with just such scenes as the poets paint Arcadia: purling rills, mossy beds &c but not crying swains & lovely nymphs tho there are some exceeding pretty girls. . . . realy I never met with such pleasant looking creatures, & the most inhospitable mortals breathing; you can get nothing from them but “dreadful good water” as they term everything that is good. Desperate and dreadfull are their favorite words, you’d laugh to hear them talk. . . .
Assending from small to great things—now let me speak of our Noble and Agreable Commander (for he commands both Sexes) one by his Excellent Skill in Military Matters, the other by his ability politeness and attention. We visit them twice or three times a week by particular invitation—Ev’ry day frequently from Inclination—he is generally busy in the forenoon—but from dinner till night he is free for all company. His Worthy Lady seems to be in perfect felicity while she is by the side of her Old Man as she calls him, we often make partys on Horse Back the Genl his lady Miss [Susan] Livingstone & his Aid de Camps who are Colo Fitz Gerald . . . Colo Johnson . . . Colo Hamilton a sensible Genteel polite young fellow a West Indian—Colo Meade—Colo Tillman . . . Colo Harrison . . . Capt Gibbs. . . . These are the Genls family all polite sociable gentlemen who make the day pass with a great deal of satisfaction to the Visitors—but I had forgot my subject almost, this is our riding party Generly—at which time General Washington throws off the Hero—and takes on the chatty agreeable companion—he can be down right impudent sometimes—such impudence, Fanny, as you and I like. . . .
God Bless you, adieu
M. Bland
The letter can be found on page 109 of In the Words of Women.

” . . . to see you well settled in the World.”

After the rather somber story of Frances Slocum, perhaps it is time to present a few entertaining excerpts from the gossipy letters of Mary and Henrietta Tilghman, called Hetty. (See a previous post.) Their brother was the well-regarded Colonel Tench Tilghman, aide and private secretary to General George Washington, who may be best known for the speed of his ride conveying news of the surrender of the British at Yorktown to the Confederation Congress in Philadelphia. The sisters lived in Maryland and had numerous family connections there but also in Delaware and Philadelphia. Their correspondent in these exchanges was Mary Pearce, a cousin known as Polly.

Chester Town April 28 [1783 or 1784] If my Dear Polly can find time enough to give what I am going to say a serious reading, I shall be glad. . . . I have many reasons for wishing you well and speedily married, two or three of which I will give you. In the first place, my great Love and affection for you makes me wish to see you well settled in the World. Secondly, I am afraid if you stay where you are much longer you will grow fast to the place, and thirdly, and lastly I shall have my spirits, which are rather low at present a little raised by change of scene, for remember I tell you, the marriage would not be good or lawful, without I was present. Now I am upon the subject of Matrimony I must tell you a little of P.H. (Mary Helmsey, known as Polly.) she is Positively to be married the last day of this month, her Birth Day, and I had the Honour of seeing her Clothes which were made in Philadelphia. She has a white Mantua Robe, trimed with silver and a pink striped satin Habbit, and a Petticoat trimed with Gause. . . . I sent the Bride an elegant White Sattin Pincushion, and garters of the same, with white Ribbon strings, I should take a great Pleasure in exercising my Genius upon the same Occasion for you. If you give me timely notice to get my own things in readyness I will come up and titivate you from top to Bottom. Do my Dear Polly let the Matter be Concluded on shortly, for I dont know anything but your Death, or Marriage, that wold carry me to Cecil this Summer, and you may guage [sic] which would please me the best. I hear the Gentleman has gone to work in a very prudent manner, they say he has made sure of Papa, Uncle Jemmy Earle, Brother Harry, and that he has paid a visit to Uncle Michael, and Aunt Molly, so you see I have very good intelligence, but shall wait to hear from you before I shall believe anything certain about it. I would have you seriously Consider every thing before you answer this Letter, and according as you deal honestly, and Candidly, with me shall I be able to judge how much regard, and affection you have for one who whatever change you may go through still continues to be your affectionate
H.M. Tilghman P.S. as you value either yourself or me burn this when read, for you are too apt to be careless of your Letters.

Hetty’s joking aside, marrying well and being settled was the goal of most women. The earlier the better, as spinsterhood set in at a young age and a family’s unmarried daughter was likely to become the caretaker of her siblings’ children and/or her parents in their old age.

The letter can be found on this SITE, pages 27-29.

posted August 20th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Clothes, Courtship, Fashion, Marriage, Tilghman, Henrietta (Hetty)

To Conclude the Story of Frances Slocum

FRANCES SLOCUM continued living near Peru, Indiana until 1847 when she died at the age of 74. Pictured is a monument at her grave site erected in 1900. On its four sides is recounted the story of her captivity and life.
The “Lost Sister” has been remembered in both Pennsylvania and Indiana. In Kingston Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, there is Frances Slocum Park. It includes a lake, which is a popular fishing spot, and a rock ledge under which the Indians and Slocum are thought to have spent the night after her capture. There are memorial tablets in Wilkes-Barre, and one of the buildings at Wilkes College is named Slocum Hall. The town of Mocanaqua on the southern side of the Susquehanna River, downstream from Willkes-Barre and and across from Shickshinny, bears the Indian name for Frances Slocum “Ma-con-a-quah” meaning “young bear” or “little bear.”
In Indiana there are an elementary school, a high school, a park, and a trail named after Frances Slocum.
In 1840 a treaty between the United States government required the Miami Indians to leave their home in Indiana, ceding their land to the federal government, and relocate in the Kansas Territory. Slocum’s remaining brothers, joined by others, appealed to Congress asking that an exception be granted to Slocum and her descendants allowing them to continue to live on their land. A Congressional Resolution was passed granting 620 acres to Slocum and the members of her village in Indiana. The remaining Indians were called the Eastern Miamis as opposed to those who had to move—the Western Miamis.
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PS. A word about the city of Wilkes-Barre. Founded in 1769, it was named after two Parliamentarians who supported the cause of the American rebels: John Wilkes and Isaac Barré. Note the accent on the latter’s name. Barré was an Irish citizen and soldier, son of a Huguenot refugee from Dublin, who is said to have coined the phrase “Sons of Liberty.” The accent has been dropped and the city name is pronounced Wilkes-”Bear,” or by some, Wilkes-”Beary.”

posted August 17th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Barré, Isaac, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Slocum, Frances

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