Alison Davis Lyne's

Sequential Short Mercy Otis Warren

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This page is a brief vignette about the life of Mercy Otis Warren, revolutionary war historian, writer and poet.

Mercy Otis was born in 1728 of quite well to do parents, as was her future husband James Warren. She was born in Barnstable MA (close to Cape Cod), and when she got married she moved just a few miles north to Plymouth. As was the custom for girls in eighteenth century America she did not have a formal education. She obtained her education informally,at first from a tutor hired to prepare her brother James for Harvard, and later by conversations with her brother James Otis, and their father who was a prominent lawyer. She also loved reading literature and history, especially political history.

In 1754 Mercy, at age 26, married James Warren, and ultimately had five children and a long and happy marriage. During the years before the Revolution, Mercy and James held parties or salons, where the political giants of the day debated the politics of the birth of a nation. She became very good friends with Abigail Adams and her husband John. In 1769 Mercy's brother James Otis, was beaten for his revolutionary talk; he was supposedly the first to have said:"Taxation without representation is tyranny." After this, John Adams urged her to step in and take up the verbal Revolutionary standard, that her brother was forced to lay down. Mercy began writing poems and plays that were thinly veiled satires on the political ferment of the day. In one of her earliest, she wrote a poem (published in the Boston Gazette) that set up a supposed argument between two goddesses over the virtues of different kinds of teas, with the upshot having a crowd of mystery characters (Colonists) tossing all the tea overboard. This amounted to a skit that applauded the Boston Tea Party, but was clothed in Greek myth, a popular form of writing in that time.

She wrote many letters and poems, some of which were published in local newspapers. She also wrote some of the first plays by an American woman, that were all part of the propaganda war launched by the Colonists against Great Britian. She wrote The Adulateur in 1772, The Defeat in 1773 and The Group in 1775, all anonymously, but only acknowledged The Group. Along with all of these she also became an avid "familiar letter" writer, a form of a blog, in Colonial times. She wrote prolifically to her many acquaintances, on a whole host of subjects, with politics dominating.

As an outcome of her involvement in the highly charged political scene of the time, is she was uniquely suited to write a history of the time before the Revolutionary War and the war itself, from a viewpoint of a citizen, and consumer of the news of battles and other events. During this time, she corresponded with many of the important actors in the Colonial theatre, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Hamilton, Abigail Adams and her husband John. She published her "History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution: Interspersed with Biographical, Political and Moral Observations" in 1805, nine years before her death in 1814.



Warren, Mercy Otis, History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution; Interspersed with Biographical, Political and Moral Observations (Boston; Manning and Loring, 1805)

Lucey, Donna M., I Dwell in Possibility; Women Build a Nation 1600-1920, (National Geographic Society, 2001)

Berkin, Carol, Revolutionary Mothers; Women in the Struggle for America's Independence (Alfred A. Knoph, div of Random House Inc., NY, 2005)

Flexner, James Thomas, The Face of History, (Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth, Texas, 1975)

Claghorn, Charles Eugene, Women Patriots of the American Revolution; A Biographical Dictionary, (1991)

Gourley, Catherine, Welcome to Felicity's World; 1774 (Pleasant Company Publications, 1999, Middleton WI)

Upcoming biography by Nancy Rubin Stuart titled The Muse of the Revolution: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Founding of a Nation, the biography will be published on July 4, 2008. at

Upcoming book by Ray Raphael

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