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.

Martha Washington’s Recipes

GEORGE and MARTHA WASHINGTON entertained a good deal—at the presidential residences in New York and Philadelphia and, of course, at Mount Vernon where they always welcomed a stream of visitors. Although Martha Washington undoubtedly owned several cookbooks only two survive. Her copy of The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse, first published in 1747, is at Mount Vernon. The other, a manuscript cookbook called Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery, a collection of 16th and 17th recipes (known as receipts) which she acquired from the family of her first husband Daniel Parke Custis, is at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. In 1981 it was published in an edited and annotated version by Karen Hess.

At the cookery section of Mount Vernon’s website you can peruse many recipes for dishes that were served at Washington dinners …. and make them yourself as they have been adapted for modern methods of preparation and cooking. I have chosen two suitable for this week’s holiday: one a dressing to serve with your bird, and another which is great for using those leftovers. Both are featured on the menu at the Mount Vernon restaurant.

Fruit Dressing for the Holiday Bird


2 cups chopped, unpeeled Jonathan apples
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped, seeded dates
2 cups chopped figs
2 cups mixed nuts (Brazil, walnuts, filberts and pecans)
1 cup grape juice
6 slices buttered toasted bread, cut into cubes
1 cup turkey drippings


Mix apples, celery, dates, figs, nutmeats and toasted bread cubes. Moisten with grape juice. Arrange ingredients in a 9×13-inch pyrex dish. Baste with turkey drippings. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes.

Serves 14 to 16

Golden Turkey Pie


1 deep-dish 9-inch pie shell
1 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 cup diced, cooked turkey
2 tablespoons chopped pimento
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese


Preheat empty cookie sheet in 375 degree oven. Add pie shell to hot cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. (This will make it crisp.) Cook celery in butter until tender; stir in turkey and pimento. Beat together eggs, milk, mayonnaise, mustard and salt. Stir in turkey mixture. Pour into pie shell. Sprinkle with cheese and paprika. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes, until silver knife inserted near center comes out clean.

Serves 4 to 6

Enjoy Thanksgiving Day with friends and family, and count your blessings.

posted November 21st, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Food, Mount Vernon, Recipes, Washington, George, Washington, Martha

“Ye Olde English Tea Shoppe”

More about deciphering eighteenth century handwriting.

Readers will, of course, have seen the sign “Ye Olde English Tea Shoppe” when looking for a place to have a cuppa. The “y” in the sign is a thorn and represents “th”; therefore one should say “The Olde …” The thorn is used in other words too.

Lower and upper case letters of the alphabet in their handwritten forms can be difficult to recognize and differentiate. Nouns were often capitalized but not consistently. The writer will sometimes capitalize a noun on one line but not on another. Or … use the lower case for a proper noun. Cast your eyes on these samples of upper and lower case letters.

Doesn’t the capital “L” look like an “S”? Many’s the time my colleagues and I have conferred in a manuscript library over the handwriting in a letter, trying to decide whether a particular word begins with a capital “G” or a lower case “g”.

One of the more confusing writing conventions met with in reading and transcribing eighteenth century letters and diaries is the “long s” that looks like the present-day “f;” it was used in the middle of words though not at the end. The words shown are “Congress” and “possible.”

I’m off shortly to help a friend examine a cache of family letters. Maybe the tips and examples given will help you decipher old family letters or diaries, if you’re lucky enough to have them.

The source for this post is “What Does That Say?” Series, Pt. I found HERE.

posted November 16th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Primary sources

Museum of the American Revolution

The Museum of the American Revolution opened in April of this year. I visited it last week and can report that it is a wonderful addition to a city rich in historic sites and institutions related to the founding of our nation. The films, exhibits and artifacts in this well-designed museum help the visitor understand how the diverse American colonies, often at odds with each other, united to gain independence from Britain. The history examined spans the years from 1760 to the adoption of the Constitution in 1787 and the inauguration of George Washington as president in 1789. And, it is suggested, onward to the present as we continue to try to be true to the founding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

A serious effort has been made to include insights into the experiences of all sorts of people, women and children as well as men. Visitors will meet both the elite and the humble, those who served in the military as well their civilian counterparts, Native Americans and enslaved workers, Patriots and Loyalists. Particular attention is paid to the Oneida Indians who sided with the Americans as opposed to other Indian nations that saw their interests better protected by the British. The Oneida Nation contributed $10 million toward the construction of this new museum and is suitably honored.

The museum is visitor friendly, with many interactive displays. The impressive collection of artifacts and objects includes all things military: from uniforms and kits to guns and swords—in American, British, Hessian, and French versions. The life-size troops pictured are Dragoons of the British Legion.

In one niche is a collection of flags. Another is devoted to women in their various roles. Still others to household necessities and American-made products, including china and fabrics. There are manuscripts, printed documents and broadsheets. Visitors can view books like Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and Baron Von Steuben’s Regulations for the Order and Discipline of Troops in the United States; his drills turned a rag-tag army into an effective fighting force.

Happily there are reproductions visitors can touch. Or sit in. This is the chair, with the famous carving of the sun on its high back, from which George Washington as President of the Constitutional Convention listened to the debates. Of it Benjamin Franklin is said to have remarked: “I have often … in the course of the session … looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”

Clearly the museum is great for kids. There are life-size depictions of famous events: watch Americans tear down the statue of George III in New York City for example. There are so-called “immersive events” with appropriate sound effects: stand beneath a reproduction of Boston’s Liberty Tree where residents discussed the pros and cons of resistance to the British; choose some fighting clothes; climb aboard a privateer’s ship; sniff a tar-coated hauser.

Perhaps the pièce de résistance among the artifacts at the museum is George Washington’s war tent, one of two, used when he was on the road. At the end of a well-done film, describing its construction, use, and conservation, on the stage behind a scrim and in a protected environment the tent itself is revealed. Seeing it is almost like a religious experience.

After some refreshment at the café, the next stop is the well-stocked shop where visitors are sure to find souvenirs or gifts for all ages. There is an excellent selection of books, both scholarly and popular. I am hoping the shop will, in the near future, carry Selected Correspondence of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay and In the Words of Women, both by me and my colleagues Louise North and Landa Freeman. There are gifts aplenty for kids but it was a bit jarring, in this day and age, to see these grouped by sex. It was also disappointing and rather ironic to find that many items on sale were made in China, Honduras, Nicaragua, or Pakistan. How great it would have been for a museum about the founding of our nation for them to have been made in the USA.

Visit the museum’s website to purchase tickets in advance at specified times. There is so much to see and absorb that tickets are good for another visit on the next day.

On a personal note, it was gratifying to see many visiting school groups, while carefully arranging to be well ahead or behind them because of the noise. And it was a particular pleasure to talk to some of the other visitors. I met and engaged in conversation a woman of the Lenape nation who visits classes of schoolchildren in Native dress to tell stories and provide information about Native cultures and games. We exchanged email addresses.

posted November 7th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Museums

A Short Break

For the next few days I will be visiting the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. It opened in April and I am anxious to see what steps have been taken to make the period more meaningful and accessible to young and old alike. I’m interested, of course, in how much attention has been paid to women and how they are represented. More fodder for this blog.

posted October 24th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Philadelphia, Primary sources

Deciphering Eighteenth Century Handwriting

Part of what attracted me to research in the era of the America Revolution was the excitement of handling and reading the actual letters of the participants and of the general public, with an emphasis on women. I was not only interested in the content but also in the handwriting itself, which I found to be a powerful manifestation of the writer, capable of establishing a personal connection between that writer and myself.

To read a letter one has to decipher the handwriting, to become familiar with the styles and customs which prevailed. In this regard I urge you to read the two topics listed in “About the Blog” on the right: “Letter-writing and More” and “Reading Old Documents”.

I recently came upon a series which concerns itself with “Deciphering the Handwritten Records of Early America” presented in “A State Archives of North Carolina blog.” Part I presents a section dealing with abbreviations, shorthand, and lettering which will be useful to anyone trying to read 18th century manuscripts. Names are often difficult to make out. These are the ones that appear in the article.

Note the use of colons and the practice of shortening names and words by removing certain letters, frequently all but the first and last, and using superscript for the last letter(s). Note, too, the use of an “X” for “Christ” in Christopher.

Often there was no indication of what letters were missing as in this sentence which was the standard closing of a letter: “I am sir yr most obt and hble servt” that reads “I am sir your most obedient and humble servant”.

One characteristic common to handwriting at the time was the persistent use of the ampersand—&—for “and” as you will have noted if you are a reader of the letters in my blog posts. I find that quite charming for some reason, perhaps because I am interested in typefaces and the versions of the ampersand in the different fonts, many of which are beautiful. Of course these differences are not generally evident in handwriting.

More in the next post.

posted October 20th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Letter-writing, Reading old documents

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