J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

Follow by Email


Friday, August 19, 2011

“Brought in the talk of Whigs & Tories”

Another of the Bostonians who get their own pins in the “Mapping Revolutionary Boston” website/app is Anna Green Winslow (1759-1780). We know less about girls in late colonial Boston than we know about boys, and a lot of what we know about girls comes from Anna’s letters to her mother (published as a “diary”).

Here are two passages from Anna’s letters that show the beginning of a political consciousness, against the backdrop of her upper-class social life.

14 Apr 1772:

I went a visiting yesterday to Col. [Richard] Gridley’s with my aunt. After tea Miss Becky Gridley [the colonel’s youngest, b. 1741] sang a minuet. Miss Polly Deming [Anna’s cousin] & I danced to her musick, which when perform’d was approv’d of by Mrs [Sarah] Gridley, Mrs [Sarah] Deming, Mrs Thompson, Mrs [John] Avery, Miss Sally Hill, Miss Becky Gridley, Miss Polly Gridley & Miss Sally Winslow. Coln. Gridley was out o’ the room. Coln. brought in the talk of Whigs & Tories & taught me the difference between them.
31 May 1772:
Monday last I was at the factory to see a piece of cloth cousin Sally spun for a summer coat for unkle. After viewing the work we recollected the room we sat down in was Libberty Assembly Hall, otherwise called factory hall, so Miss Gridley & I did ourselves the Honour of dancing a minuet in it.
Spinning and weaving cloth, rather than importing it, had heavy political meaning at the time. Anna still hadn’t mastered spinning, so dancing was the best way she could honor the cloth being produced in the Manufactory.

I’m not sure Anna’s parents in Nova Scotia would have supported this awakening, though. Her father was a royal appointee, and the family became Loyalists.

No comments: