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$10 – $20

Book Release & Read the Revolution Speaker Series with Mary Beth Norton

June 06, 2023
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Museum of the American Revolution, 101 S 3rd St
Philidelphia, PA 19106 United States
Museum of the American Revolution

Liberty’s Daughters:
The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750–1800


Written by Dr. Mary Beth Norton

A groundbreaking book when it was first published in 1980, Dr. Mary Beth Norton’s Liberty’s Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750–1800 would make Abigail Adams proud. Taking Adams’s charge to “remember the ladies” to a new, scholarly level, Norton mined the family papers of approximately 450 18th-century families, disproving the idea that sources on women were scarce. As she explains, she wanted to “examine eighteenth-century women’s self-perceptions, the influence of their sexual identity on all phases of their lives, and, perhaps, most importantly, the impact of the American Revolution upon them.”

Through the words of the women themselves, Norton discovered that a kind of “golden age” of equality for women in the 1600s and 1700s did not really exist and that the Revolutionary War had a significant impact on women’s lives during those years and after. The excerpt below resonates with the way stories of the lived experience of the American Revolution are told in the Museum’s galleries. As Norton notes, “Most narratives of the Revolutionary War concentrate upon describing a series of pitched battles between uniformed armies. Yet the impact of the conflict can more accurately be assessed if it is interpreted as a civil war with profound consequences for the entire population.”

Read on to learn more about the decision faced by many women to either stay in their homes and live with the effects of the war or to flee, with all the uncertainty that entailed.

Dig Deeper: Join us on June 6 as we welcome Dr. Norton for her reflections on advances in scholarship on gender and the American Revolution over the past 40 years. Her talk, “Gender and American Resistance to British Authority, 1765–1775: A Reassessment,” will examine men’s and women’s involvement in pre-Revolution politics in the context of contemporary definitions of masculinity and femininity.

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Excerpt from
Liberty’s Daughters:
The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750–1800

In 1777 a Pennsylvanian told John Adams resolutely that “if the two opposite Armys were to come here alternately ten times, she would stand by her Property untill she should be kill’d. If she must be a Beggar, it should be where she was known.” Hannah Iredell’s sister Jean Blair made the same choice in 1781 when the redcoats neared her North Carolina home. “The English are certainly at Halifax but I suppose they will be every where & I will fix myself here it is as safe as any where else & I can be no longer tossed about,” she declared. The Philadelphian Elizabeth Farmar also decided to stay in her house, despite the fact that it lay between the lines during the occupation of the city in 1777–1778. As a result, she, her husband, and their daughter were endangered by frequent gunfire, had difficulty obtaining adequate food supplies, and suffered “manny cold days” that winter because the British confiscated their firewood, “Notwithstanding we thought ourselves well of[f] in comparison to some,” she remarked in 1783. “Most of the houses near us have been either burnt or pulled down as would have been the case with us if we had not stayd in it even at the hasard of our lives.”


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Museum of the American Revolution