Saturday, September 4, 2010

Remembering Mercy

Certain names from the early history of the United States - call them the Founding Fathers - will remain, indelible, in the American consciousness. But others fade from view as the decades and now centuries go by. That's doubly true of women. History, after all, has long been written mainly by men whose interest in women's accomplishments, especially in the 19th Century, was mainly limited to whether the house was clean and meals were hearty.

This week, for instance, for the first time in more than 40 years I came across the name of Mercy Otis Warren. I had a vague memory that she was an import propagandist against the British and Loyalists prior to the Revolutionary War and had the ear - and the respect - of the likes of Patrick Henry, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. But that was all. So I looked around.

Warren was born in 1728, married in 1754, had five sons, and died in 1814. An excellent writer, she produced many satiric patriotic poems and plays that gave heart to revolutionaries as the war approached. She was, in fact, the colonies' first female playwright. Late in life, she wrote a three-volume work called "The History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution" - a history with a definite Jeffersonian viewpoint as she retained her strong Anti-Federalist leanings to the end.

She was a significant factor in American history, and I hope it was only my helter-skelter reading habits that kept her under my radar for so long.

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