Women Leaders and Activists
Experiences of Women Leaders and Activists as told by CGCC Students in partnership with Chandler Museum's Community History Program
Overview of 1600s/1700s
 

By: Sharon Myers, Samantha Vasile, and Brandon Olsen

Between the 1600's and 1700's Colonial America was changing drastically. As the British continued to tax the colonies without giving them representation back in England, resistance was growing around the colonies. The colonies started to revolt. The Boston Tea Party was a major event during this revolutionary period showing the English that the colonies would not stand for taxation without representation. All the incidents led to an eventual war which was won by Colonial America who then became independent from England.

In the 1600's-1700's women had many things happening around them, but most women were kept busy at home, hidden away from the world. Most white women of the time were educated with basic reading and writing skills. Few women of the time continued past the basic learning and most were discouraged to achieve more education. Most women were trained to become mothers and house wives. Women had no say in politics, legal issues, government, or anything else men felt women should not be involved in. Some women were able to contribute, if their husbands who allowed it, in politics and other aspects of the male driven community although it was from behind the scenes. Women had no right to own a business or to hold any of the property once married; in addition, women could not get a divorce. If a woman was to get a divorce she would own nothing and would be frowned upon by society.

Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643)
By: Sharon Myers

One of the many great women in American history was Anne Hutchinson who played a huge role and was often overlooked like many other women figures in our history. She was the first to establish a women's group in America. Born in 1591, in a time when life was run by churches and male dominant society, women had no equal rights or were not able to have a public opinion. Women had very little roles in society but to be a mom and take care of their family and be a follower of the church. In 1634 Anne Hutchinson immigrated to Massachusetts Bay with her husband, a merchant, where they had eleven children. Anne's kindness and her open-mindness attracted admiration and followers from all over. She would have frequent discussions with others at her house, questioning the Puritan Church. These discussions became popular and many attended to the point that the talks became weekly meetings. Anne believed that God did not talk to people in church but to the people directly; this set off the Puritan church who felt that Anne's views were wrong and accused her of "devil" talk. Anne's views also threatened the church and their authority causing them to put her on trial for troubling the commonwealth and the churches. In Anne's trial the governor of the time Mr. Winthrop stated, "You have maintained a meeting and an assembly as a thing neither tolerable nor comely in the sight of God nor fitting for your sex." After her trial Anne was banished to Rhode Island in 1638, where many people found protection who were seeking different religious views. Anne questioned the male clergy (the Puritan church) and overlooked the domination of men; she also started the first women's group in America. Anne Hutchinson opened a lot of doors for women now; she stood her ground while being attacked with brutal words in her trial, showing not just the church but men how strong women can be and substantiate their own thoughts and views.

Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814)
By: Brandon Olsen

Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814) was born 1728 in Barnstable, Massachusetts. Mercy Warren died 1814 in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Her father owned vast amounts of land and was a large contributor to the colony. Mercy was extremely well educated by her uncle Jonathan Russell who was a Yale-trained cleric. Well educated in literature, history, theology, and the classics, Mercy was encouraged to continue learning past what her Uncle could teach. Normally in a time when women were discouraged from education Mercy's father encouraged her to read and to become active in the community as much as possible at that time. She participated in politics through her older brother Jemmy Otis and later through her husband James Warren and her friend John Adams by influencing them and their ideas with sharp witty intellect. She created vast homo-social and hetero-social networks through letters during the Revolution and beyond. She wrote hundreds of poems and plays such as "The Adulater," "The Defeat," and others. By 1775 Mercy was the leading woman writer of the Revolution. After the revolution she continued writing and her pursuit of politics. At the start of her publishing career, Mercy Otis Warren published anonymously, as did most women at the time, but at the end she was able to publish using her given name because she became so well-respected. Mercy Otis Warren was one of the great intellectual minds of the mid 1700's early 1800's.

Martha Moore Ballard (1735-1812)
By: Samantha Vasile

Life was often harsh for the New England settlers during the 18th-century, especially for women who generally didn't have a say in many aspects of the male-driven community. Although their histories are rarely known or spoken about, there are a number of key women who played an important role in the development of American society. One of these key women, an American midwife and diarist, was Martha Moore Ballard. Born in Oxford, Massachusetts in 1735 to an illiterate mother, Martha took it upon herself to learn the most basic teachings from her brother and an uncle - college graduates from Harvard and Yale (Martin 118). Through their schooling she was able to keep track of family finances as well as maintain a diary (1785-1812) of her work, which is later understood as the one of the only physical pieces of evidence of her existence and contribution to history. As several physicians in the Moore family passed down their knowledge of medicine to Martha, she decided to move to rural Maine and practice midwifery. Because women in this era were expected to get married and have children, Martha became "part of a network of wives, mothers, friends, and neighbors whose domestic duties put them in charge of most local health care" (Borst and Jones 23). Not only did Martha bury the dead, prescribe medications, and nurse the sick back to health during her 77 years, but she also delivered 816 babies during 1785-1812, earning her enormous respect in her community, which is a lot to say for a woman in the post revolutionary time period.

Sources for Martha Ballard:
A Midwife's Tale. Dir. Richard P. Rogers. Prod. Laurie Kahn-Leavitt. Blueberry Hill
Productions. VHS. PBS, 1998.
A Midwife's Tale is a video based on the 1990 book written by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. The video provides visualization of the people talked about in the novel, making it easier to correlate and understand the joys and hardships they experienced in the years following the American Revolution. This video was useful because I was able to actually see how civilization was during 1785-1812, as opposed to painting a picture of how I thought it was in my mind.

Borst, Charlotte G. and Kathleen W. Jones. "As Patients and Healers: The history of
Women and Medicine." OAH Magazine of History Sept. 2005: 23-26.
This source is an article from OAH Magazine of History, that illustrates the connection between women and medicine through three different case studies (Martha Ballard, Elizabeth Blackwell, and the Publishers of the Boston Women's Health Book), during three different time periods over two centuries in U.S. history. Their experiences are connected to the "growing authority of experts, race, class, changing role of the state, as well as the expansion of the women's sphere." For example, in the 1700's, medical care for women was mainly taken on by female nurses or midwives; by the 1800's that had changed and a majority of physicians were predominately male, but due to issues leaving women feeling humiliated after their physical examinations it was argued that women should be treated by doctors of their own sex. This article was helpful because I was able to connect other women's experiences in medicine with that of Martha Ballard's.

Martin, Christa. "Martha Moore Ballard (1735-1812)." Women in World History: A
Biographical Encyclopedia.
Ed. Anne Commire and Deborah Klezmer. Vol. 2 Ba-Bree. 15 vols. Waterford, CT: Yorkin Publications, 1999.
This source is a specialized encyclopedia designed solely about women
in history. It contains many records of women who played substantial roles in the development of society and who impacted history all around the world. It was helpful because it was straight to the point in relaying facts, for example I learned that Martha Ballard delivered 816 babies between 1785 and 1812 in Hallowell, Maine.

Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her
Diary, 1785-1812
. New York: Vintage Books, a division of Random House Inc.,
1990.
A Midwife's Tale is a book, narrated by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich that captivates its audience with segments of Martha Ballard's recovered diary, which she kept between 1785 and 1812. As a midwife and healer, her diary entries mainly consisted of her laborious work, as well as her home life in Hallowell, Maine. This book was very useful because not only did it allow an almost lost, life story directly from Martha Ballard to be heard, but Laurel Thatcher Ulrich did an amazing job providing insight on the sexual customs, medical practices, and religious disputes going on in society during that time period.

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Anne Hutchinson

Mercy Otis Warren

Martha Ballard