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.

“throw them into a cullender to drain the water out”

Browse through The Art of Cookery by HANNAH GLASSE and you will find among many chapters: “To Dress Fish,” “Of Puddings,” “Directions to prepare proper Food for the Sick” with the subhead: “I don’t pretend to meddle here in the Physical Way; but a few Directions for the Cook, or Nurse, I presume will not be improper to make such Diet, &c as the Doctor shall order. Included in this chapter is a recipe “To make Beef or Mutton Broth for very weak People, who take but little Nourishment.”

There is even a chapter “For Captains of Ships; how to make all useful Things for a Voyage; and setting out a Table on board a Ship” which includes “To make Catchup to keep twenty Years” and “To make Mushroom Powder.”

The last chapter in the book is “A certain cure for the Bite of a Mad Dog. By Dr. Mead.”

I like this recipe “To make a Gooseberry Fool.” Slap dash. No nonsense.

Take two quarts of gooseberries, set them on the fire in about a quart of war. When they begin to simmer, and turn yellow, and begin to plump, throw them into a cullender to drain the water out: then with the back of a spoon carefully squeeze the pulp, throw the sieve into a dish, make them pretty sweet, and let them stand till they a cold. In the mean time take two quarts of new milk, and the yolks of four eggs, beat up with a little grated nutmeg, stir it softly over a slow fire, when it begins to simmer, take it off, and by degrees stir it into the gooseberries. Let it stand till it is cold, and serve it up. If you make it with cream, you need not put any eggs in; and if it is not thick enough, it is only boiling more gooseberries. But that you must do as you think proper.

Check this SITE for some of Glasse’s recipes for use today: turnip soup, artichokes, stuffed savoy cabbages, and Portugal cakes. You may want to subscribe to this blog: Jenny McGruther is a wife, mother and cooking instructor specializing in real and traditional foods. Her first book, The Nourished Kitchen features more than 160 wholesome, traditional foods recipes.

posted July 19th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Food, Glasse, Hannah, Medicine

“The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy”

As a change of pace, I would like to direct your attention to a cookbook that was published in England in 1747 and continued in its many editions to be popular for nearly a century afterwards. It circulated in the American colonies and in the independent nation that followed. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson had copies. An edition was published in the United States in 1805. Written by “a Lady” who was in fact HANNAH GLASSE (1708-1770), it was titled The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy; Which far exceeds any Thing of the Kind yet published. In a note “To the Reader” Glasse explained that her book was written in a simple style as it was directed to servants and “the lower sort.”

To The Reader.
I believe I have attempted a branch of Cookery which nobody has yet thought worth their while to write upon: but as I have both seen, and found, by experience, that the generality of servants are greatly wanting in that point, therefore I have taken upon me to instruct them in the best manner I am capable; and, I dare say, that every servant who can but read will be capable of making a tolerable good cook, and those who have the least notion of Cookery cannot miss of being very good ones.

If I have not wrote in the high polite style, I hope I shall be forgiven; for my intention is to instruct the lower sort, and therefore must treat them in their own way. For example: when I bid them lard a fowl, if I should bid them lard with large lardoons, they would not know what I meant; but when I say they must lard with little pieces of bacon, they know what I mean. So, in many other things in Cookery, the great cooks have such a high way of expressing themselves, that the poor girls are at a loss to know what they mean: and in all Receipt Books yet printed, there are such an odd jumble of things as would quite spoil a good dish; and indeed some things so extravagant, that it would be almost a shame to make use of them, when a dish can be made full as good, or better, without them. . . .

Glasse went on to criticize the French for their extravagance.

A Frenchman in his own country will dress a fine dinner of twenty dishes, and all genteel and pretty, for the expence he will put an English lord to for dressing one dish. But then there is the little petty profit. I have heard of a cook that used six pounds of butter to fry twelve eggs; when every body knows (that understands cooking) that half a pound is full enough, or more than need be used; but then it would not be French. So much is the blind folly of this age, that they would rather be imposed on by a French booby, than give encouragement to a good English cook! . . .

I shall say no more, only hope my Book will answer the ends I intend it for; which is to improve the servants, and save the ladies a great deal of trouble.

More on the cookbook in the next post.

Read Glasse’s cookbook online HERE.

“he was . . . taken . . . by the Algerines”

During the Revolutionary War there were only a few ships, nationalized privateers, that together could be called a navy, and they had no real bearing on the outcome of the conflict. After the War there was more concern about land attacks on the western frontier of the United States than threats on the seas therefore an army was more important than a navy.

This deficiency became a problem when Barbary Pirates began to attack American ships in the Mediterranean Sea. Privateers operating from the northern shoreline of Africa known as the Barbary Coast preyed on merchant ships in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic coast for their cargo but also for their seamen who were sold as slaves. American shipping before the Revolution had been protected by the British government which made treaties, paid tribute and, with the help of private sources and relatives, provided ransom for seamen who were captured. That shield was gone after the United States became independent.

The first American ship to be captured, in this case by Moroccan pirates, was the Betsy in October of 1784. Negotiations, with the help of Spain, were successful; the crew was released and trade resumed. But the new nation had neither the fleet nor the money to ensure the safety of American ships in the Mediterranean. In 1785 two more ships were seized, by Algerian pirates, the Dauphine out of Philadelphia and the Maria of Boston, their cargoes confiscated and their crews enslaved. The captain of the Dauphine sent several petitions to Congress describing the suffering of the crew and asking for relief. The amount of money that Congress authorized for payment to the pirates was far below what was demanded. Furthermore the United States was involved in devising a new constitution in 1787 and establishing a government under it in 1789. The plight of the captives fell from public consciousness.

Interest was revived when additional petitions were submitted to the new Congress. In December of 1791, HANNAH STEPHENS of Concord, Massachusetts sent a petition describing what befell her, as the wife of Isaac Stephens, the captain of the Maria, and their children as a result of his lengthy imprisonment.

To the President, Senate, and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled.

The memorial of Hannah Stephens of Concord in the County of Middlesex and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, wife of Isaac Stephens now a prisoner in Algiers: Humbly sheweth that her husband sailed from the Port of Boston in said Commonwealth on the twenty fourth day of June Anno Domini 1725, in the Schooner Nancy of which he was Commander bound to Cadiz, and was taken on the twenty fourth day of July in the same year by the Algerines, and has ever since remained a prisoner among them, deprived of his liberty & of every means of providing for himself, his wife or Children, said Stephens left these children the eldest of which is a daughter fourteen years old, sickly and not able to support herself and the other two still remain a great expense to their mother. Said Stephens several years previous to his last sailing from Boston, bought a house and a small piece of land in said Concord for his wife and family, that they might have a certain home, whilst he pursued the Business of a Mariner, and paid part of the purchase money; but by means of his great misfortune in being made a prisoner, he has been unable to complete the purchase, and the money that has been paid is lost by reason of the failure of the payment of the Remainder: therefore your Memorialist has been turned out of Doors and driven to the cruel necessity of doing the lowest duties of a servant to prevent herself, and her helpless children from suffering hunger, and nakedness. The sufferings of your Memorialist and of her Children become insupportable when added to the Distress she feels for her husband, who is continually representing by his Letters his melancholy situation, and praying for the interposition of the United States in his behalf. Your Memorialist in this her destitute and forsaken condition, humbly begs the interposition of the United States for her husband, that they would derive some way by which he may be freed from his present state of captivity, that she and her helpless children may once more enjoy the great pleasure of seeing their long lost friend, at liberty and in his native land. Your Memorialist is likewise under the necessity of entreating, and she now does in the most humble manner, entreats that the Legislature of the United States would also take her necessitous circumstances into their wise consideration, and make some provision for the subsistence of herself and her children, in order that she may have some alleviation of her accumulated load of human woe.

as in Duty bound shall ever pray

Hannah Stephens

Negotiations continued, some ransom demands were met, and attempts were made to secure peace treaties. Isaac Stephens was finally freed in 1797. His subsequent petition for monetary compensation, however, was refused. Meanwhile it had become clear that diplomacy was not going to solve the problem. Force was needed. Money was appropriated for a navy and ultimately the United States waged an undeclared war against the North African states of Morocco, Tripoli, Algiers, and Tunis from 1801 to 1815 (recall “to the shores of Tripoli” in the Marine hymn). While it did not completely end acts of piracy it did show that the United States could and would wage a war far from its shores.

Stephens’ petition can be found HERE.
Additional background material: Documents to the People Vol 36, No 1 (2008), pp 32-36.

posted July 12th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Barbary Pirates, Britain, Stephens, Hannah

“those dreary cells wherein I was confined”

ELIZABETH MUNRO FISHER was sent to the prison in Greenwich Village in March 1801 for the crime of forgery—attempting to forge a deed giving her property near Albany which, she said, had been promised by her father, Reverend Harry Munro. Fisher described her experience in the prison:

I went in on Friday. On Monday the inspectors thought proper to place some confidence in me—they put the women prisoners under my command, which command I received with reluctance, but was pleased, nevertheless, with this mark of distinction. I should be wanting in my duty, if I passed by, without making known to the public the attention with which I was treated—they seemed to try to make me happy. After I had received my orders from Thomas Eddy and John Murray (1), I was desired by them to make a choice of a room for myself, and a person to attend me. My provisions were sent me from the head keeper’s table. I lived well, and was used well in every respect; but still, in the solemn midnight hours, when all my family [the other prisoners] were asleep, instead of taking rest, I would walk the lonely hall, and view those dreary cells wherein I was confined from the world—and for what, I knew not.

. . . . I had the privilege of walking in the yard and garden, which made my time pass with universal approbation. I heard no complaints, and parted with them [the prisoners] in friendship. After delivering up every thing I had in charge, I took my leave, and went before the inspector, who gave me ten dollars. I am not mistress of language to express my feelings on going out of the gate. I came out alone. . . .

It is striking that in the space of a weekend, Elizabeth’s treatment, even though she “behaved bad for a few days,” suddenly improved dramatically. Surely even tenuous connections in high places had something to do with that. On 3 June 1806, she was pardoned “being represented unto us as a fit object of our mercy”(2) by Governor Morgan Lewis (1754-1844), who was not only an old friend of John Jay but a relation by marriage.

In 1810, Elizabeth Munro Fisher (1759-c.1812) self-published her memoirs, in which she related, often in harrowing detail, her unhappy childhood; her abandonment by her father after she refused the marriage he had arranged for her; her subsequent unhappy marriage to a tailor, Donald Fisher; her trials during the Revolutionary War, her apparently fairly successful life in Canada; and her futile attempt to return to the property near Albany, New York she had been promised by her father. Elizabeth, writing for an audience who, she hoped, would be sympathetic to her plight, did not shrink from describing mean-spirited or nasty things she had done, but she was desperately scrambling to be independent, and for that she needed property. As a feme covert, a married woman, she had no financial independence; any property she had was under the husband’s control.

Estranged from her children in Canada, Elizabeth Munro Fisher resided in various places in New York; she is listed in the City Directory in 1806 as “Fisher, widow 9 Magazine”; 1808-1810 as “Fisher, widow Elizabeth 2 West”; and in 1812, “Fisher, Elizabeth widow 92 Mott.” Also listed that year is her daughter: “Fisher, Eliza M. school 118 Chapel.” In 1813 and 1814 only Eliza M. Fisher is listed, after which date, her mother having died, she probably moved back to Canada.

From the sparse documents(3) that remain, it is clear that Rev. Harry Munro, having fled America in 1777 for Scotland, was a manipulative and vengeful man. His promise to his daughter to give her the 2,000 acres at Hebron, New York, as Elizabeth related, was spurious, as he knew the property would then be under the husband’s control.

It is also true that members of the Jay family were involved to some degree in Elizabeth Fisher’s affairs during these years. In 1794, Peter Jay Munro delegated his cousin, Peter Augustus Jay, who was in Great Britain at the time, to travel to Scotland to get a quit claim on the 2,000 acres in Hebron, N.Y. belonging to Harry Munro. In a letter of 24 July, 1797, Harry wrote his son, “my wish and intention is, that neither your Sister, nor any of her Children, shall have any Claim on” that property. Peter Jay Munro was thus able to sell the property c. 1800 just when Elizabeth was arrested. When Harry Munro died in 1801, all of his property real & personal was left to his son; his daughter received an annuity of ₤18 sterling and the interest of ₤600 stock.(3)

On November 23, 1809, Elizabeth Munro Fisher received a visit from her second son, Alexander Fisher. He was accompanied by Peter A. Jay. The matter under discussion was Alexander’s attempt to get his father Donald Fisher’s lands by “right of inheritance.” Some months earlier, he had appointed his uncle Peter Jay Munro as his attorney. It would not be until about 1813 before some resolution between Alexander Fisher and New York State may have occured.(4)

1. Thomas Eddy (1758-1827) and John Murray (1737-1808), Quakers, were members of the commission appointed to build the state prison with a single cell system in Greenwich Village (1797). They both were involved in philanthropic and social reform projects in NYC.
2. New York State Archives Executive Pardons 1799-1931, B0042-78.
3. See the Munro Papers at the Archives of the Museum of the City of New York and the New York State Archives in Albany.
4. Albany, N.Y. State Archives, John Chambers Papers, Box 2, CP 9885 #93-198 9885-93-99; 9885-141-143; also HY 12382 John Williams Papers, Box 2, Folder 8, Legal Papers SC12382.
The illustration is the cover of Memoirs of Mrs. Elizabeth Fisher, of the city of New-York, daughter of the Rev. Harry Munro, who was a Chaplain in the British Army, during the American Revolution.—Giving a particular account of a variety of domestic misfortunes, and also of her trial, and cruel condemnation to the state’s prison for six years, at the instance of her brother, Peter Jay Munro. The original is at the Library of Congress.

“[I] could not believe that I was a prisoner”

On 6th March 1801, at a session of Oyer and Terminer and Goal delivery, John Lansing Junr. Esq., Chief Justice of Court of Judicature presiding, the following complaint was read:

. . . Elizabeth Fisher late of the town of Hebron in County of Washington, widow, Aug. 29, 1800 with force and arms at the City of Albany . . . feloniously did falsefy, make forge and counterfeit, and cause and procure to be falsely made, and did willingly cut and assist in the false making forging and counterfeiting a certain paper writing sealed, purporting to be a deed of conveyance for certain lands therein mentioned, and to be signed sealed and delivered by one Harry Munro to the said Elizabeth Fisher.1

ELIZABETH FISHER stated “she is not guilty thereof.” The brown-haired widow, 41 years old and standing 5 feet 2¾ inches tall, had been arrested by Albany County Sheriff on a complaint by her half-brother Peter Jay Munro on 27 October 1800. She had been in jail since then.

At her trial by jury on 10 March 1801, the district attorney produced a 28-year old farmer, as Elizabeth wrote in her Memoirs, “a man by the name of John Nira Smith to my utter astonishment, swore that he saw that deed executed in Ruport [Rupert, north of Bennington], in the State of Vermont, by Adonijah Crane. This evidence, being so pointed,” Fisher, according to court records, “nothing further saith.” According to 18th century rules of evidence, the accused in a criminal case could not take the stand, even on her own behalf, thus Elizabeth Fisher was sentenced to life at hard labor in the State Prison in New York City. So was Smith.

I left Albany and came to the New-York state’s prison, and arrived on [Thursday] the 19th of March, but could not believe that I was a prisoner till I found the keys turned on me. I thought my brother could not be so cruel as to imprison a poor widow woman, who had suffered every thing but death, by having a cruel step-mother, a disagreeable partner in life, and left to an unfeeling and unpitying world, with three children, to do the best I could for a living. Such thoughts made me think my brother would be merciful. But no, his heart was untouched with mercy—I was to be immured in a prison for life. Caring not for a life thus devoted, I behaved very bad for a few days, for my wish was that they would punish me with death. . . .2

How had Elizabeth Munro Fisher’s life come to such a pass? After all, she was the daughter of an Episcopalian minister and Loyalist Rev. Harry Munro (1730-1801), and the half-sister of the New York lawyer Peter Jay Munro (1766-1833), who, in turn, was the nephew of the New York governor, John Jay.

But forgery and passing counterfeit money were crimes considered as heinous as murder and carried an automatic life sentence. John Jay, as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, had stated in his Charge to the Grand Jury (in Bennington, Vermont, 25 June 1792):

Among the Crimes specified in what is generally called the penal Statute, there are two so dangerous to Society, as always to merit particular Attention—I mean the crime of Perjury, and the crime of Forgery. . . . With a Heart contaminated with Guilt, and a mind poluted [sic] with iniquitous Desires and Designs, he [the forger] calmly and deliberately prepares and begins his work, and with patience and with Caution pursues it. . . . The Folly of all bad men is to be regretted, but the Punishment of Persons so deliberately wicked, can merit very little compassion. . . .3

In the next post: What became of Elizabeth Munro Fisher?

1. People of the State of New York vs. Elizabeth Fisher, Criminal Case Document 1797-1801
[J2911-82;A52/6], NYS Archives, Albany, NY.
2. Memoirs of Mrs. Elizabeth Fisher, of the City of New York, Daughter of the Rev. Harry Munro, who was a Chaplain in the British Army, during the American Revolution-Giving a particular account of a variety of domestic Misfortunes, and also of her trial, and cruel condemnation to the state’s prison for six years, at the instance of her brother, Peter Jay Munro. Written by herself. New York: Printed for the Author(c.1810).
3. The Selected Papers of John Jay, Elizabeth M. Nuxoll, Ed., vol. 5: 1788-1794 (Charlottesville: U. of Virginia Press, 2017), pp. 425-26.
The illustration is of the New York State Prison in Greenwich Village.

posted July 5th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Fisher, Elizabeth Munro, Jay, John, Law, Munro, Peter Jay, Munro, Reverend Harry

next page

   Copyright © 2018 In the Words of Women.