Some women took up the pen in their effort to win the war. Some of these women included Abigail Adams, Phillis Wheatley, and Mercy Otis Warren.
Abigail Adams was the wife of John Adams, who served in the Continental Congress. She did not publish her thoughts and ideas in the newspapers, but used her influence when writing her husband. Remember the Ladies was one of her well known letters. In this letter, she states “I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could (5).” Abigail Adams was urging John not to forget the women when forming the new nation. If the ladies were not recognized, they could create their own rebellion, Adams continued in her letter.
Phillis Wheatley was another woman who used her pen as a political weapon. Phillis was captured from her home in West Africa near the Gambia River, and was brought to America, and sold to John and Susanna Wheatley in Boston, Massachusetts. As a slave, Phillis’ life was unusual, she learned to speak, read, and write in English. Phillis Wheatley was a poet, and had a book of her poems published in 1773, called Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (6). She crossed racial lines when writing her poems, many did not believe slaves and especially a slave woman could do something so intelligent. Her poems gave her a unique opportunity to express herself. This is clearly seen in one of her poems: On Being Brought from Africa to America, “Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, Taught my benighted soul to understand, That there’s a God that there’s a Saviour too: Once I redemption neither sought nor knew. Some view our sable race with scornful eye, ‘There colour is a diabolic die.’ Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, May be refin’d and join th’ angelic train (5).” Phillis is saying everybody is equal in God’s eyes, it does not matter the skin color a person has. She continues her message about equality of the races and faith throughout her poems.
Mercy Otis Warren
The pen as a political weapon was how Mercy Otis Warren contributed to the war effort. When she was young, Mercy was denied a formal education, but she pursued her own personal studies in world history, English literature, and Enlightenment philosophy (7). During the Revolutionary War, Mercy and her husband James were good friends with John and Abigail Adams. Mercy wrote and published satirical plays criticizing British authority, anonymously (1). John Adams encouraged Mercy to keep writing. Political differences arose between Mercy and Adams during the war. These differences did not keep her silent. She did not promote women’s suffrage in the new nation, but thought women should be allowed to actively participate in politics (7).
Click here to explore women’s roles as couriers and spies during Revolutionary War.