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.

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Friday, April 27, 2012

A Petition from Fifty Woburn Women

This is a guest-blogger posting from Chris Hurley of Woburn, a researcher and reenactor with a deep knowledge of that big town’s Revolutionary experience. Today he shares a notable document from 1775.

FIFTY women of Woburn.

In May 1775 they wanted the Massachusetts Provincial Congress to incentivize home manufacture by paying bounties to families with the best and most output of home-produced goods. How to pay for it? Their petition offered an answer.
To the Honorable Gentlemen the House of Delegates for the Province of the Massachsetts Bay, in Provincial Congress assembled, by Adjournment from Cambridge to Concord in the County of Middlesex on Wednesday the Twenty second day of March 1775

The Petition of the subscribers Female Inhabitents of the Town of Woburn and County aforesaid.

Humbly sheweth, that your Petitioners being greatly alarmed at the many bold & daring attempts of the British Administration to reduce this devoted Province & Continent to a state of the most abject Slavery; Do esteem it our indisspensible duty to exert our utmost efforts to defeat all the plans of our [restless and] inveterate Enemies and if possible [render] their projects to enslave us, Abortive.

Your Petitioners from a just sense of the Duty they owe to themselves, their Country and Posterity, have come to a full determination Totally to abstain from the use of all India Teas so long as the same shall be attended with a duty or Tax for the purpose of enslaving America & to refrain from all superfluities in our dress untill the Acts, & parts of Acts of the British Parliament enumerated by the Grand American Congress shall be totally Repeal’d.

That August assembly in their great Wisdom have strongly enjoind on all Merchants, Traders & others not, to import any, Goods, Wares, or Merchandize from any part of Great Britain or Ireland till said Acts & parts of Acts are repealed. It therefore becomes absolutely necessary according to their & your own recommendation to encourage & promote our own Manufactories as much as possible.

Your Petitioners humbly pray your Patronage & Encouragement in this Laudable & necessary undertak’g but without the assistance of the industrious Farmers to furnish us with the necessary materials which we flatter our selves may be produced in in [sic] plenty from a proper Cultivation of the Soil of this Province & Continent.

It is with the utmost regret that your Petitioners are constrain’d to say that too many Men are Guilty of a very great mispence of Time at Taverns & Tippling Houses, & Expence of Money laid out for Rum & other spiritous Liquors which ought to have been expended for Materials for the Women to Manufacture or the support of their Families.

Your Petioners pray a speedy remedy for this great and prevailing Evil and humbly recommend and submitt the following to the Consideration of this Hon-ble Congress Viz—That you would be pleased in your great Wisdom & prudence to cause an Excis to be laid on all spiritous Liquors expecially on Rum Retailed in this Province in such way & manner as you shall in your Wisdom think most effectual to prevent the present excessive use and abuse of those articles of Luxury, and that the [net?] proceeds of the same may be appropiated to the encouragement of Manufactures in this Town & Province by way of Bounty to those of us that shall produce the most and best Cloths & other Manufactures of various kinds, your Petitioners the more earnestly request your aid & assistance in this important affair as we have have sacrificed our favorite Teas at the Altar of Liberty for the good of the Community & your Petitioners further pray that you would be pleased to appoint such a Number of suitable Persons to determine the qualities of the Manufactures produced by our Industry as to you shall seem [meet?] and to see that the several Bounties you in your Wisdom may assign are equitably disposed of according to the merit of our performances, as in duty bound your Petioners shall ever pray

Ruth Baldwin
Phebe Snow
Perses Garry
Kezia thomson
Perses Snow
Ruth Snow
Lydia thomson
Kezia Thompson
Abigail Tay
Deborah Eatton
Mary Baldwin
Bridget Tompson
Abigail Thomson
Ruth thomson
Abigail thomson
Anna Snow
Sarah Tay
Phebe Peirce
Susanna Tay
Joanna Eames
Huldah Wyman
mary convers
Mary Wright
Lydia Wright
Jemima Richardson
Mary Flagg
Phebe Thomson
Abigail thomson
Abigail Wyman
Rebekah Wyman
Sarah [Gay?]
Phebe Wright
Abigail Richardson
[erased Hanna ___]
Hannah Brewster
Mary Carter
Eleanor Douglass
Eleanor Douglass
Sarah Richardson
Mary Richarson
Hannan Richardson
Alice Richarson
Mary Richardson
Martha Richardson
Mary Leathe
Eleanor Leathe
Susanna Leathe
Lydia Richardson
abigail [Tilar?]
Abigail Warren
This document is in the collections of the Houghton Library at Harvard University. It’s not mentioned in the published records of the Provincial Congress. A fair photographic copy of the original petition will be on display at Saturday’s Pathway of the Patriots living-history presentation in Woburn.

This year’s Pathways of the Patiots consists of tours of the Old Lexington Road (now in wooded conservation land), marched by Loammi Baldwin’s militia on April 19th. There are multiple starting times for the tours on Saturday afternoon. Each tour features five documented scenes of Revolutionary Woburn. Scene one features this petition. Reserve a spot on a free tour.

Thanks, Chris! (And look at all those Wymans, Richardsons, and Thompsons in Woburn. A nice reminder of how rural New England towns were often settled by extended families.)


Heather Wilkinson Rojo said...

All those Wymans, Thompsons, Richardsons, Carters and Converses are in my fammily tree. This is a great story to show my family, and at the annual Wyman family reunion in Burlington this fall (at the Francis Wyman homestead)

Chris Hurley of Woburn said...

Regarding the word [meet] in the petition, I thank Tom Macy (aka John Adams) for informing me that 'meet,' now archaic, is an adjective meaning 'correct.'

-Chris H.

J. L. Bell said...

My favorite word in the petition is “mispence.” And especially in the phrase “very great mispence of Time.”