Wednesday, September 30, 2015
1918 President Woodrow Wilson finally speaks in favor of female suffrage, has a stroke, & his new wife takes over his duties even though she cannot even vote
On this day in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson gives a speech before Congress in support of guaranteeing women the right to vote. Although the House of Representatives had approved a 19th constitutional amendment giving women suffrage, the Senate had yet to vote on the measure.
Wilson had actually maintained a somewhat lukewarm attitude toward women’s suffrage throughout his first term (1913-1917). In 1917, he had been picketed by suffragists outside the White House who berated him for paying mere lip service to their cause. The protests reached a crescendo when several women were arrested, jailed & went on a hunger strike. Wilson was appalled to learn that the jailed suffragists were being force-fed & he finally stepped in to champion their cause. Suffragists & their supporters agreed that Wilson had a debt to pay to the country’s women, who at the time were asked to support their sons & husbands fighting overseas in the First World War & who were contributing to the war effort on the home front. In his September 30 speech to Congress, Wilson acknowledged this debt, saying “we have made partners of the women in this war…Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering & sacrifice & toil & not to a partnership of privilege & right?” Wilson’s stirring words on that day failed to drum up the necessary votes to pass the amendment. The bill died in the Senate.
On October 2, 1919, at the White House in Washington, D.C., United States President Woodrow Wilson suffers a massive stroke that leaves him partially paralyzed on his left side & effectively ends his presidential career.
Ironically, his wife of 9 months Edith Wilson took over many routine duties & details of the Executive branch of the government. She decided which matters of state were important enough to bring to the bedridden president. "I studied every paper sent from the different Secretaries or Senators," she wrote later of her role, "and tried to digest & present in tabloid form the things that, despite my vigilance, had to go to the President. I, myself, never made a single decision regarding the disposition of public affairs. The only decision that was mine was what was important & what was not, & the very important decision of when to present matters to my husband."
Woodrow Wilson's 1st posed photograph after his stroke. He was paralyzed on his left side, so his wife Edith holds a document steady, while he apparently signs. June 1920.
One Republican senator labeled her "the Presidentress who had fulfilled the dream of the suffragettes by changing her title from First Lady to Acting First Man."
In My Memoir, published in 1939, Edith Wilson called her role a "stewardship" & insisted that her actions had been taken only because the president's doctors told her to do so for her husband's mental health. Historian & journalist Phyllis Lee Levin wrote that Edith Wilson was "a woman of formidable determination."
Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America granted women the right to vote.
The Vaulting Master or, The art of vaulting reduced to a method, comprised under certaine rules. illustrated by examples, and now primarily set forth by Will Stokes. Printed for Richard Davies in Oxford 1652.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Agnolo Bronzino (Italian artist, 1503-1572) Elenora di Toledo (1522-1562)
Paintings of women reading indoors have been popular for centuries. Women have also written and published books for centuries.
Agnolo Bronzino (Italian artist, 1503-1572) Laura Battiferri c 1550-55
Domenico Zampieri or Domenichino (Italian painter, 1581–1641) Sybil
Gabriel Metsu (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, 1629-1667) A Woman Sleeping
Gerrit Dou (Dutch Golden Age painter, 1613–1675) Rembrandt's Mother 1631
This publisher was probably Jane Bowyer, who on 27 December 1634, married Andrew Coe in the church of St George the Martyr in Southwark. Andrew was an trainee printer who was served an
apprenticeship with the Stationers’ Company under George Miller beginning in 1630. At some point around the end of June 1644, her husband died, and Jane took over the running of the press. The business went to their son Andrew who was age 6 at the time. The press was used by John Clowes in the late 1640s. Jane apparently retained the business, finally handing over the responsibilities to her son in his twenties. His name appears in the 1660s, and his name also appears at various points before that, with the formulation “Printed by J. Coe and A. Coe,"
Giovanni Battista Moroni (Late Italian Renaissance painter, c 1520–1578) Abess Lucrezia Agliardi Vertova
Giovanni Battista Moroni (Late Italian Renaissance painter, c 1520–1578) Portrait of a Woman with a Book
Hans Holbein the Younger (German artist, 1497-1543) Portrait of Lady Guilford 1527
Levina Teerlinc (Flemish-born artist, 1510-1576) Elizabeth I when Princess c 1559
Eliz. Allde, dwelling neere Christ- Church, seems to be printing as early as 1598. She published mostly religious works by a variety of authors & worked with a wide variety of stationers around London Bridge. Her press seems to be successful & she seems to be financially independent. She continued to publish through the 1633.
Pieter Janssens Elinga (Dutch Golden Age painter, 1623–1682) Woman Reading 1660
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (Dutch painter, 1606-1669) Rembrandt’s Mother Reading 1629
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (Dutch painter, 1606-1669) Rembrandt's Mother Reading the Staten Bible 1631
Sarah Griffin inherited an established printing house founded in 1590. Her mother-in-law, Anne Griffin, was in charge of the business from 1634 to 1643, & she gradually transferred the business to her son Edward (Sarah's husband), beginning in 1638. Sarah inherited the business when Edward died in 1652; and began printing jointly with her son, Bennett, in 1671. She is recorded as a printer in the Stationers' Company records until 1673.
Sofonisba Anguissola (Italian painter, 1532-1625) Self Portrait 1554 The book reads Sophonisba Angussola virgo seipsam fecit 1554 or Sophonisba Anguissola, a virgin, made this herself in 1554.
Sofonisba Anguissola (Italian painter, 1532-1625) The Artist's Sister Elena Anguissola as a Nun 1551
Titian Tiziano Vercelli (Italian painter, 1488- 1576) Empress Isabel of Portugal Reading a Book
Piero di Cosimo (Italian artist, 1462–1521) Maria Magdalena
Amico Aspertini (Italian painter, c 1474–1552) Female Saint Holding a Book c 1510-20
Hanna Barret's name appears in a list of London Publishers, "whether members of the Stationers Company or not." London Bookseller .... H. B.— , Eis Widow, Hannah Barret. 1578-1687.
The listing as a widow probably indicates that she inherited the business from her husband. She published many books including Francis Bacon's translation of "Psalmes" into verse in 1625.
Lucia Anguissola (Italian artist, 1532-1625) Self-Portrait 1557
Rogier van der Weyden (Flemish painter, 1400-1464) Mary Magdalene 1445
1520s Bernardino Licinio (Italian painter, c 1489–1565) Portrait of a Lady
Hannah Allen was born into a family of booksellers & bookbinders, & she married Benjamin Allen, a bookseller. After the death of her husband in 1646, Hannah Allen inherited his business. Her name appears on imprints for about 5 years. She published works by radical puritan authors & worked with a wide variety of stationers, a fact that suggests her press was successful & financially independent. After freeing her apprentice, Livewell Chapman, in 1650, she married him, & her name disappears from the press's imprints. Legally, the business became his upon their marriage, although she probably remained involved.
1540 Angnolo Bronzino, Agnolo di Cosimo, (Italian Mannerist artist, 1503-1572) Portrait of Lucrezia Panciatchi
1540 Hans Eworth (c 1520-1547) Portrait of Lady Dacre
1560s Paolo Veronese (Paolo Caliari) (Italian, 1528-1588) Portrait of a Lady
Anne Seile (or Anna & Ann) inherited the bookselling business of Henry Seile, when he died in 1661. She published books under her own name until 1669.
1565 Parrasio Micheli (Italian artist, fl 1547-d. 1578) Portrait of a Woman
Bernardino Licinio (Italian artist, c 1489–1565) Portrait of a Woman
Paolo Veronese (Paolo Caliari) (Italian, 1528-1588) Lady or Saint Agnes
In this instance, a woman bookseller employed a woman printer to publish her book. Mary Clark was the widow of Andrew Clark, a printer. She maintained a printing business in Aldersgate, London, from 1677 to 1696. Ann Mearn (or Mearne) was part of an influential family of booksellers & bookbinders. Her husband, Samuel Mearne, was a former warden & master of the Stationers' Company, stationer to Charles II, & printed quality books with gold tooled designs.
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Dutch artist, 1606-1669) Artemisia or Sophonisbe
Thanks to the Special Collections & Rare Books librarian Kelli Hansen for her additional information in her blog. For more on Early Modern women publishers & printers, see “‘Print[ing] your royal father off’: early modern female stationers and the gendering of the British book trades”, TEXT: An Interdisciplinary Annual of Textual Studies, 15 (2003), 163-86.
Capture of Major John Andre, 1780 at Tarrytown, NY
British spy John André (1750-1780) is court-martialed, found guilty & sentenced to death by hanging on this day in 1780. André, an accomplice of Benedict Arnold (1741-1801), had been captured by Patriots John Paulding, David Williams & Isaac Van Wart 6 days earlier on September 23, after they found incriminating papers stashed in his boot.
Andre conspired with Continental Army Brigadier General Benedict Arnold to surrender the fort at West Point to the British. Arnold had just been appointed commandant at the fort, but greed & resentment compelled him to turn traitor. The British offered to pay him 20,000 pounds for the deed, more than $1 million today.
American militiamen captured Andre on his way to New York City. He was 30 years old, a wealthy, London-born Huguenot who had served 10 years in the 7th Royal Fusiliers. He’d been captured once before, at Fort Saint-Jean in Quebec & held in Lancaster, Pa. Andre gave his word that he wouldn’t try to escape & was allowed to roam the town freely. He was exchanged for an American prisoner in 1776.
Andre joined the British occupations of New York & Philadelphia, where he lived in Benjamin Franklin’s house. He was a favorite among colonial society as he was a charming conversationalist, a good singer & a talented artist. In Philadelphia he had become friendly – & possibly more than friendly – with Peggy Shippen, a Loyalist. She later married Benedict Arnold & acted as their go-between.
Peggy Shippen Arnold and child, by Daniel Gardner
In late September 1780, Andre left his sloop-of-war anchored in the Hudson River & met Arnold on land. The next day, American troops fired on the ship, forcing it to move downriver. Andre was stranded.
Arnold gave him civilian clothes, a fake passport & 6 papers showing the British how to take West Point. He was captured by American militiamen in Tarrytown, N.Y.
Capture of Major John Andre, 1780 at Tarrytown, NY
It was the discovery of these papers that revealed the traitorous actions of Benedict Arnold to the U.S. authorities. Upon hearing of André’s capture, Arnold fled to the British warship Vulture & subsequently joined the British in their fight against his country.
After being sentenced to death, André was allowed to write a letter to his commander, British General Henry Clinton. André also wrote a letter to General George Washington in which he asked, not that his life be spared, but that he be executed by firing squad. Death by firing squad was considered a more “gentlemanly” death than hanging.
Even members of the Continental Army respected André’s bravery, including General Washington, who wanted to find a way to spare André’s life. Believing that André committed a lesser crime than Benedict Arnold, Washington wrote a letter to Clinton, stating that he would exchange André for Arnold, so that Arnold could be hanged instead. When he did not receive a reply to his offer by October 2, Washington wrote in his “general order” of the day, “That Major Andre General to the British Army ought to be considered as a spy from the Enemy & that agreeable to the law & usage of nations it is their opinion he ought to suffer death. “The Commander in Chief directs the execution of the above sentence in the usual way this afternoon at five o’clock precisely.”
John André was executed by hanging in Tappan, New York, on October 2, 1780. He was 31 years old. Dr. James Thacher, a Continental Army surgeon, gave an eyewitness account of Andre’s last day in his memoir, The American Revolution, “So soon, however, as he perceived that things were in readiness, he stepped quickly into the wagon, & at this moment he appeared to shrink, but instantly elevating his head with firmness he said, "It will be but a momentary pang," & taking from his pocket two white handkerchiefs, the provost-marshal, with one, loosely pinioned his arms, & with the other, the victim, after taking off his hat & stock, bandaged his own eyes with perfect firmness, which melted the hearts & moistened the cheeks, not only of his servant, but of the throng of spectators. The rope being appended to the gallows, he slipped the noose over his head & adjusted it to his neck, without the assistance of the awkward executioner. Colonel Scammel now informed him that he had an opportunity to speak, if he desired it; he raised the handkerchief from his eyes, & said, "I pray you to bear me witness that I meet my fate like a brave man." The wagon being now removed from under him, he was suspended, & instantly expired; it proved indeed "but a momentary pang." He was dressed in his royal regimentals & boots, & his remains, in the same dress, were placed in an ordinary coffin, & interred at the foot of the gallows...”
Monday, September 28, 2015
Claiming his right to the English throne, William, duke of Normandy, invades England at Pevensey on Britain’s southeast coast. His subsequent defeat of King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings marked the beginning of a new era in British history.
William the Conqueror (1027-28–1087) - King William I, reigned 1066–87 Unknown Artist painted about 1590s-1620
William was the illegitimate son of Robert I, duke of Normandy, by his lover Arlette, a tanner’s daughter from the town of Falaise. As the love child of an affair between Robert I, duke of Normandy, & his lover, William was said to be known to his contemporaries, mostly envious enemies, as William the Bastard for much of his life. His critics continued to use this moniker (behind his back) even after he defeated the English at the Battle of Hastings & earned a more formal title upgrade to William the Conqueror.
Duke Robert I, who had no other sons, designated William his heir, & with his death in 1035, William became duke of Normandy at age seven.
Though he spoke a dialect of French & grew up in Normandy, a fiefdom loyal to the French kingdom, William & most other Normans descended from Scandinavian invaders. William’s great-great-great-grandfather, Rollo, pillaged northern France with fellow Viking raiders in the late 9C & early 10C, eventually accepting his own territory (Normandy, named for the Norsemen who controlled it) in exchange for peace.
Rebellions were epidemic during the early years of William's reign, & on several occasions the young duke narrowly escaped death. Many of his advisers did not. By the time he was 20, William had become an able ruler backed by King Henry I of France. Henry later turned against him, but William survived the opposition, & in 1063, he expanded the borders of his duchy into the region of Maine.
During William’s siege of Alençon, a disputed town on the border of Normandy, in the late 1040s or early 1050s, residents are said to have hung animal hides on their walls. They mocked him for being the grandson of a tanner, referring to the occupation of his mother’s father. To avenge her honor, he had their hands & feet cut off.
William the Conqueror (1027-28–1087) Unknown Artist painted about 1580
When William asked for the hand of Matilda of Flanders, a granddaughter of France’s King Robert II, she initially demurred. According to legend, the snubbed duke tackled Matilda in the street, pulling her off her horse by her long braids. In any event, she consented to marry him & bore him 10 children before her death in 1083, which plunged William into a deep depression.
In 1051, William is believed to have visited England & met with his cousin Edward the Confessor, the childless English king. According to Norman historians, cousin Edward promised to make William his heir. On his deathbed, however, Edward granted the kingdom to Harold Godwine, head of the leading noble family in England more powerful than the king himself.
In January 1066, King Edward died, & Harold Godwine was proclaimed King Harold II. William immediately disputed his claim. In addition, King Harald III Hardraade of Norway had designs on England, as did Tostig, brother of Harold. King Harold rallied his forces for an expected invasion by William, but Tostig launched a series of raids instead, forcing the king to leave the English Channel unprotected. In September, Tostig joined forces with King Harald III & invaded England from Scotland. On September 25, King Harold II met them at Stamford Bridge & defeated killing them both. Three days later, William landed in England at Pevensey.
With approximately 7,000 troops & cavalry, William seized Pevensey & marched to Hastings, where he paused to organize his forces. On October 13, King Harold II arrived near Hastings with his army, & the next day William led his forces out to give battle. William’s jester rode beside him during the invasion of England, lifting the troops’ spirits by singing about heroic deeds. When they reached enemy lines, he taunted the English by juggling his sword & was promptly killed, initiating the historic skirmish. At the end of a bloody, all-day battle, King Harold II was killed (shot in the eye with an arrow, according to legend), & his forces were defeated.
William the Conqueror (1027-28–1087) Unknown Artist painted about 1618
William then marched on London & received the city’s submission. On Christmas Day, 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned the 1st Norman king of England, in Westminster Abbey, & the Anglo-Saxon phase of English history came to an end.
William spoke no English when he ascended the throne, & he failed to master it despite his efforts. (Like most nobles of his time, he also happened to be illiterate.) Thanks to the Norman invasion, French was spoken in England’s courts for centuries & completely transformed the English language, infusing it with new words. French became the language of the king’s court & gradually blended with the Anglo-Saxon tongue to give birth to modern English.
Described as strapping & healthy in his earlier years, William apparently ballooned later in life. It is said that King Philip of France likened him to a pregnant woman about to give birth. According to some accounts, the corpulent conqueror became so dismayed with his size; that he devised his own version of a fad diet, consuming only wine & spirits for a period of time. It didn’t work, he remained overweight, but he could more easily forget about it.
Despite his worries about his size, William I proved an effective king of England, and the “Domesday Book,” a great census of the lands and people of England, was among his notable achievements. Upon the death of William I in 1087, his son, William Rufus, became William II, the 2nd Norman king of England.
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820), author & feminist, was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the eldest of the 8 children (4 died in infancy) of Winthrop & Judith (Saunders) Sargent. Her father was a wealthy shipowner & merchant, & both parents came from families long prominent in the town. Her brother Winthrop, Jr., born in 1753, served with distinction in the Revolutionary War, rising to the rank of major; he was later secretary of the Northwest Territory (1787) & first governor of the Mississippi Territory (1798). Another brother, Fitz-William, made a fortune in the China & India trade.
John Singleton Copley (1738–1815) Portrait of Mrs. John Stevens (Judith Sargent, later Mrs. John Murray) 1772
As a girl Judith showed such an intellectual bent, that she was allowed to share Winthrop’s lessons as he prepared with a local minister for Harvard, & during his college vacations he reportedly helped her continue her studies.
Judith Sargent was married at 18 to John Stevens, a sea captain & trader. The couple lived in the Gloucester mansion known today as the Sargent-Murray-Gilman-Hough House. It was probably built for them by her father. They had no children.
In her twenties, Mrs. Stevens was “seized with a violent desire to become a writer.” She began composing occasional verse, but as the American Revolution approached, she found her attention turning to social questions & adopted the essay form.
The talk of liberty & human rights that was rife in patriot families prompted her, like her contemporaries Abigail Adams & Mercy Warren, to challenge prevailing assumptions about the status of women. In 1779 she wrote an essay declaring that the sexes had equal minds & calling for more thorough education for girls; her first published piece was her “Desultory Thoughts of Self-Complacency, Especially in Female Bosoms,” which appeared in 1784 in the Gentlemen & Lady’s Town & Country Magazine, a short-lived Boston periodical, over the signature “Constantia.” A healthy self-respect, she argued, would prevent young women from rushing into marriage merely to gain status & avoid spinsterhood.
Meanwhile Judith Sargent Stevens, like her father, had been attracted to the liberal religious doctrines of Universalism. The Sargents had first heard of these beliefs from an English seaman who visited Gloucester in 1770. Four years later, when the itinerant preacher John Murray (1741-1815), now known as the founder of the Universalist Church in America, arrived in town, they offered such support that he decided to settle there. Murray gathered a congregation which, after being expelled from the First Parish Church, in 1780 built the first Universalist meetinghouse in America, on land donated by Winthrop Sargent. Apparently, Judith Sargent Stevens was also attracted to the preacher himself.
High-style Georgian domestic architecture, the house was built in 1782 for Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820) The Sargent House Museum, 49 Middle Street, Gloucester, Massachusetts. Her husband left her only 4 years later, sailing for the West Indies.
The war years brought hard times to Gloucester; & in 1786, to avoid imprisonment for debt, John Stevens fled to the West Indies, where he lived only briefly before dying on the Dutch island of St. Eustatius. In 1788, his widow married her pastor, John Murray.
In her new marriage, Judith Sargent Murray had 2 children, George, born in 1789, who lived only a few days, & Julia Maria born in 1791. And, the author “Constantia” began to renew her literary efforts. Her poems, pre-Romantic in feeling & couched in Popean couplets, began to appear in the new Massachusetts Magazine, & in February 1792 this literary monthly inaugurated an essay series by “Constantia” entitled “The Gleaner.” Writing in the person of an imaginary “Mr. Vigillius,” the author expressed her opinions on religion, politics, education, & the manners & customs of the day, illustrating her points with fictional narratives. The series was a favorite with the magazine’s readers & continued until August 1794.
A frequent Murray theme was the upbringing of girls. Mrs. Murray’s longstanding opinions on this subject had been strengthened by reading the Englishwoman Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792). Mrs. Wollstonecraft’s French Revolutionary fervor did not sit well with Judith Murray, a staunch Federalist who believed that her own country’s Revolution had carried it far enough toward democracy. She nevertheless heartily approved the Vindication’s plea that women be educated to be the “sensible & informed” companion of man & the even more radical demand that she be equipped to earn her own living. Certainly Mrs. Murry understood this need in her own marriages. In the United States, Mrs. Murray felt, “the Rights of Women’ begin to be understood;” she was encouraged by the many female academies being established & looked forward to seeing the present generation of girls inaugurate “a new era in female history.”
In 1793, the Murrays moved to Boston. The lifting that year of the Revolutionary ban on dramatic performances gave Mrs. Murray a new outlet for her literary ambitions. Her play The Medium was probably the Federalist Street Theatre’s first production by an American author, but it played only one performance (Mar. 2, 1795). The critic Robert Treat Paine, Jr., attacked her The Traveller Returned, produced on Mar. 9, 1796, as pedantic & tedious, & it fared little better.
Once again, Judith Sargent Murry began to experience financial worries. Preacher John Murray had little head for practical affairs, & his health was failing. To increase the family income he proposed that his clever wife’s essays be published. He guessed correctly. More than 750 subscribers were secured, headed by George Washington, & The Gleaner appeared in 3 volumes in 1798, with an elaborate dedication to President John Adams. The series today holds a place as a minor classic in the literature of the young republic, bearing comparison with the essays of Mrs. Murray’s contemporaries Joseph Dennie, Philip Freneau, & Noah Webster.
A few of her poems were published in Boston periodicals in the early years of the new century, under the pen names “Honora-Martesia” & “Honora;” but most of her energies went into caring for her husband, who suffered a stroke in 1809, & was thereafter paralyzed, until his death in 1815.
Their financial straits were relieved by the marriage of their daughter in 1812, to Adam Louis Bingamon, son of a wealthy planter in the Mississippi Territory, whom she had met while he was a student at Harvard.
Mrs. Murray organized & edited her husband’s Letters & Sketches of Sermons (3 vols., 1812-13) & his autobiography, published in 1816, as Records of the Life of the Ref. John Murray, written by Himself, with a Continuation by Mrs. Judith Sargent Murray.
In 1816, she moved to live with her daughter in Natchez, Miss., where she died in 1820, aged 69. She was buried in the Bingamon cemetery on St. Catherine’s Creek, overlooking the powerful & poetic Mississippi River.
This posting based, in part, on information from Notable American Women edited by Edward T James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S Boyer, The Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1971
American Biography - Patriot Esther De Berdt (1746-1780) (Mrs. Joseph Reed) Hosts George Washington & Adams in 1774
Ester De Berdt (1746-1780) (Mrs. Joseph Reed) depicted in classical republican dress by Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827).
Ester De Berdt Reed (1746-1780), leader of women’s relief work during the American Revolution, was born in London, England, one of 2 children & the only daughter of Dennys De Berdt, a devout Congregationalist descended from Flemish religious refugees, & Martha (Symons) De Berdt. Her father, a merchant in the colonial trade, later served as agent for the colonies of Massachusetts & Delaware & in that capacity helped secure repeal of the Stamp Act.
He was host to many American at his London home & his country house at Enfield. Several of these visitors courted his daughter, a studious, pious young woman, delicate in appearance yet animated in speech & manner. The one who won her love was Joseph reed, a young lawyer from New Jersey, whom she first met in 1763. But their marriage was delayed, first by the opposition of her father & then by Reed’s absence in America for 5 years. Reed returned to England in 1770, & the wedding took place in London on May 31. The couple had planned to remain in England, but De Berdt’s death 7 weeks before the wedding left his family financially distressed; & the Reeds, accompanied by Mrs. De Berdt, sailed to American & settled in Philadelphia.
Joseph Reed quickly became a leader of the patriot movement in the growing controversy with England, & his wife also identified herself fully with the American cause. During the meeting of the First Continental Congress in 1774, she was hostess to Washington, John & Samuel Adams, & other delegates. She was glowingly referred to by a Connecticut member as “a Daughter of Liberty, zealously affected in a good Cause.” Amid growing tension in early 1775, Mrs. Reed wrote to her brother, Dennis, in England that “if these great affairs must be brought to a crisis & decided, it had better be in our time than our childrens.” Her own children were then 3 in number: Martha, Joseph, & Esther. Three others were born during the Revolution: Theodosia, Dennis De Berdt, & George Washington; Theodosia died in infancy of smallpox in 1778.
During the first 3 years of the war, Esther Reed’s husband was often away with the army as Washington’s aide. The family itself was forced to flee Philadelphia on three different occasions, as the city became a military focal point. After the British left Philadelphia, & with the subsequent election of Joseph Reed as president (governor) of Pennsylvania, the Reeds settled again in that city.
At the height of the American Revolution in May 1780, General George Washington reported to the Congress in Philadelphia, that his troops were at the point of exhaustion. Without adequate food, clothing, & pay, they needed immediate relief.
Hearing the desperation of the plea & hoping “to render themselves more really useful,” the women of Philadelphia accepted the challenge. In May & June of 1780, Mrs. Reed, only recently recovered from an attack of smallpox, served with vigor as chairman of a campaign among the women of Philadelphia & Germantown to raise funds for Washington’s soldiers. Organizing a committee of 39 women, she was able to report to Washington on July 4, that the equivalent of $7,500 in specie had been contributed. When the General asked that the money be used for linen shirts for his men, the women’s committee purchased the linen & cut & sewed the shirts themselves. Over 2,000 shirts were delivered to the army at the year’s end. Mrs. Reed also tried with some success to spread the work elsewhere, but though her letters brought into being local committees of women in other Philadelphia towns, in Trenton, N.J., & in Maryland, the initial Philadelphia endeavor was nowhere equaled in extent & results. By Independence Day, July 4, 1780, Esther Reed wrote to Washington that the women had raised more than $300,000. The women's agressive, patriotic campaign received repeated praise in the local newspaper, the Pennsylvania Packet.
Esther Reed organized & led this women's relief effort in the weeks immediately following the birth in May of George Washington Reed, her 6th baby in 10 years of marriage. She died suddenly in Philadelphia in September 1780, at the age of 33, the victim of an acute dysentery. The relief committee was carried forward under the direction of Sarah Franklin Bache, daughter of Benjamin Franklin. Mrs. Reed was buried at Philadelphia’s Second Presbyterian Church. In 1868, her remains, together with those of her husband, were moved to Laurel Hill Cemetery. Her husband would die 5 years later.
Just before she died in the late summer of 1780, Philadelphia printer John Dunlap published an anonymous broadside called the Sentiments of an American Woman, which was probably written by Esther Reed.
"THE SENTIMENTS of an AMERICAN WOMAN.
"ON the commencement of actual war, the Women of America manifested a firm resolution to contribute as much as could depend on them, to the deliverance of their country.
"Animated by the purest patriotism, they are sensible of sorrow at this day, in not offering more than barren wishes for the success of so glorious a Revolution. They aspire to render themselves more really useful; and this sentiment is universal from the north to the south of the Thirteen United States.
"Our ambition is kindled by the same of those heroines of antiquity, who have rendered their sex illustrious, and have proved to the universe, that, if the weakness of our Constitution, if opinion and manners did not forbid us to march to glory by the same paths as the Men, we should at least equal, and sometimes surpass them in our love for the public good. I glory in all that which my sex has done great and commendable. I call to mind with enthusiasm and with admiration, all those acts of courage, of constancy and patriotism, which history has transmitted to us: The people favoured by Heaven, preserved from destruction by the virtues, the zeal and the resolution of Deborah, of Judith, of Esther! The fortitude of the mother of the Massachabees, in giving up her sons to die before her eyes: Rome saved from the fury of a victorious enemy by the efforts of Volumnia, and other Roman Ladies: So many famous sieges where the Women have been seen forgeting the weakness of their sex, building new walls, digging trenches with their feeble hands, furnishing arms to their defenders, they themselves darting the missile weapons on the enemy, resigning the ornaments of their apparel, and their fortune, to fill the public treasury, and to hasten the deliverance of their country; burying themselves under its ruins, throwing themselves into the flames rather than submit to the disgrace of humiliation before a proud enemy.
"Born for liberty, disdaining to bear the irons of a tyrannic Government, we associate ourselves to the grandeur of those Sovereigns, cherished and revered, who have held with so much splendour the scepter of the greatest States, The Batildas, the Elizabeths, the Maries, the Catharines, who have extended the empire of liberty, and contented to reign by sweetness and justice, have broken the chains of slavery, forged by tryants in the times of ignorance and barbarity. The Spanish Women, do they not make, at this moment, the most patriotic sacrifices, to encrease the means of victory in the hands of their Sovereign. He is a friend to the French Nation. They are our allies. We call to mind, doubly interested, that it was a French Maid who kindled up amongst her fellow-citizens, the flame of patriotism buried under long misfortunes: It was the Maid of Orleans who drove from the kingdom of France the ancestors of those same British, whose odious yoke we have just shaken off; and whom it is necessary that we drive from this Continent.
"But I must limit myself to the recollection of this small number of achievements. Who knows if persons disposed to censure, and sometimes too severely with regard to us, may not disapprove our appearing acquainted even with the actions of which our sex boasts? We are at least certain, that he cannot be a good citizen who will not applaud our efforts for the relief of the armies which defend our lives, our possessions, our liberty? The situation of our soldiery has been represented to me; the evils inseparable from war, and the firm and generous spirit which has enabled them to support these.
"But it has been said, that they may apprehend, that, in the course of a long war, the view of their distresses may be lost, and their services be forgottten. Forgotten! never; I can answer in the name of all my sex. Brave Americans, your disinterestedness, your courage, and your constancy will always be dear to America, as long as she shall preserve her virtue.
"We know that at a distance from the theatre of war,if we enjoy any tranquility, it is the fruit of your watchings, your labours, your dangers. If I live happy in the midst of my family; if my husband cultivates his field, and reaps his harvest in peace; if, surrounded with my children, I myself nourish the youngest, and press it to my bosom, without being affraid of feeing myself separated from it, by a ferocious enemy; if the house in which we dwell; if our barns, our orchards are safe at the present time from the hands of those incendiaries, it is to you that we owe it. And shall we hesitate to evidence to you our gratitude? Shall we hesitate to wear a cloathing more simple; hair dressed less elegant, while at the price of this small privation, we shall deserve your benedictions.
"Who, amongst us, will not renounce with the highest pleasure, those vain ornaments, when-she shall consider that the valiant defenders of America will be able to draw some advantage from the money which she may have laid out in these; that they will be better defended from the rigours of the seasons, that after their painful toils, they will receive some extraordinary and unexpected relief; that these presents will perhaps be valued by them at a greater price, when they will have it in their power to say: "This is the offering of the Ladies. The time is arrived to display the same sentiments which animated us at the beginning of the Revolution, when we renounced the use of teas, however agreeable to our taste, rather than receive them from our persecutors; when we made it appear to them that we placed former necessaries in the rank of superfluities, when our liberty was interested; when our republican and laborious hands spun the flax, prepared the linen intended for the use of our soldiers; when exiles and fugitives we supported with courage all the evils which are the concomitants of war.
"Let us not lose a moment; let us be engaged to offer the homage of our gratitude at the altar of military valour, and you, our brave deliverers, while mercenary slaves combat to cause you to share with them, the irons with which they are loaded, receive with a free hand our offering, the purest which can be presented to your virtue,
By An AMERICAN WOMAN."
See: Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, 26 vols. (Washington, Library of Congress, 1976-2000), 15:284, 287, 315-16, 329, 355; William B. Reed, Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1847), 2:260-71, 429-49; and Pennsylvania Packet (Philadelphia, John Dunlap), June 13, 17, 27; July 8; and November 4, 1780. This posting based, in part, on information from Notable American Women edited by Edward T James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S Boyer, The Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1971