Listen: Mercy Otis Chris Warren, Rape, Harvard discussed on Newt's World
"You then go from the sort of wives of extraordinary very famous Founding Fathers To Mercy Otis Warren who really carves out her own space in a way that for that generation is pretty unique absolutely name. She grew up in a family where again she was treated. As an equal until her brothers went to Harvard and of course you couldn't do that but she wrote plays and poems that were published in newspapers around the colonies that were very influential and rousing opinion against the British should she was as influential in some quarters as Tom Paine with commonsense she also had the ears of many of the founders and so so when the British were in Boston and wreaking havoc her letters to the continental Congress made a big difference in terms of bringing people together together and their willingness to fight the British because of course the British were not fighting in the south point it took some convincing and her letters others were influential in doing that and then she became very suspicious of the constitution and all that because she didn't really believe in a strong federal government but she came around eventually and then wrote this remarkable history of the American revolution and one of the things that's impressive and and that is that and this is another reason why writing about the women is so important. She talks about things that happened. During the war didn't the men just never talk about rape as an instrument of war starvation. All of the things is not just the battlefield that she's talking in about. She's talking about the effects on all of American society and you know when you think about the bill of rights and quartering troops. Can you imagine the offensive. Those troops could have committed when they were quartered in people's homes. I mean it's really shocking thought she was there talking about it when nobody else was and that's another thing actually about writing these books the women's letters are so really delightful light full because they're not writing thinking that the letters are going to be published as the men were then not editing and redrafting drafting and all of that they're just writing letters not expecting me to read their mail two hundred years later yes they're full of politics but they're also full of the economic situation and who's having children and all too often losing them and what the fashions are and all of that so you get a much much broader autre sense of American society and you also get some more you the men so in that context was Mercy Otis Chris Warren unique or where a group of women who actually were public advocates in Rhode poured for the public. She was unusual unusual. There were some others and it's booth in Stockton whose husband Richard Stockton was one of the signers of the declaration and then recanted a ten point but she was still around and became a great friend of Washington. Her poems were published in the newspapers of the time and actually Washington Shington road to her when war was over and said basically now. It's kind of up to you women to keep this country going make it work. A lot of women not published under their own name so Judah Sergeant Murray for instance was published as the gleaner for a while but then she wanted people to know was she who I was writing and she wrote in you know an essay that was widely published in seventeen ninety seven on the equality of the sexes so so you know there were women out there arguing for equal rights even in the eighteenth century so jumping from literary advocacy to to sort of direct action. Deborah Samson does something which actually happens affirmative times in the civil war but I think was a little more unusual in the revolutionary war. She becomes a man order to fight right. She went to war. They're probably I'm sure there were people in all of our wars who did that but she she was Robert Robert Shirt leaf and she fought and she was injured several times and finally she got sick she they called camp fever and doctor came you to tend to her and found out her secret and so she was discharged and but she did receive a pension as her husband received a survivor's survivors bench and she was very much considered a soldier and then there were others who took over from their husbands on the battlefield Margaret Corbin the bottle of Fort Washington when her husband was shot took his gun and she's actually buried at West Point. There were several several women who actually fought and then lots of women rent along with the men to battle the CAM followers mainly three the wives of the man. Because what else would they were going to do. They didn't have any wherewithal to make a living and so they went with the soldiers odors and they then became useful they cooked and brought water and nurse and one point at Yorktown in fact this exchange that Washington it has memorialized of saying to some woman who was headed out to the field was bred. Aren't you afraid and she said well. If the men are out there I should be out there feeding feeding them. You know so they were very much on the scene and and Washington's general orders. He's constantly saying 'cause he. He cares about appearances and he's constantly saying this. General Motors wants to women and children to March with the baggage trains but he says it's so often that you I can tell that it's not happening and then at one point he finally says okay. Just the women who can move fast should move with the elite corps so they were. It wasn't molly pitcher. Yes she was at Monmouth and in New Jersey. We're not sure exactly who she was there so much. Wjr contemporaneous storytelling about her where she was filling the cannon with water and which was the pitcher and the man was husband boyfriend whatever was shot and she there's I think there's a very famous painting of her wielding the device that you shove down the cannon to Cantu into Philly and of course back in that period because of the kind of cannon they're using they needed to put the water in to make sure that there's no fire left from the last round when they put the powder could blow up before you wanted to be in the powder's rise well she actually at least by mythology she played it. You know she was one of those heroics years and that sort of helped build the morale in the sense of potential victory right when you add up all of these stories you really see but an incredible contribution these women make and let's not leave out the fundraising and seventeen nine eighty. It was a low point in the war. The French hadn't arrived yet. The British had New York and Charleston and soldiers were feeling very undefeated. Esther divert read who was an English immigrant who became a rabid Patriot was the wife of Joseph Reed who who was the governor of Pennsylvania and one of Washington's right hand man and she published in the newspapers the sentiments of an American woman calling rolling on women to sacrifice for the men in the army and then start a fund raising drive and they kept wonderful records record they went house to house around Philadelphia mainly but also in the other colonies the first lady's in each colony ran the driving even in fact. It's the only extant letter of Martha Jefferson that we have of her asking the women have to contribute to the fund for the soldiers and a few weeks they raised three hundred thousand dollars and at that point Robert Morrison cronies were trying to start start a bank and they had only raised three hundred sixty thousand dollars so the women did something quite remarkable and it contributed mightily to soldier morale other other lots and lots of newspaper articles attesting to that so they were just all kinds of ways that they made their ability available to this new nation. Let me take these last couple of minutes and switch gears pretty dramatically on you. You've had a remarkable career. You grew up with remarkable parents. Both your father and your mother had remarkable careers and you have carved out of niche for yourself as a journalist historian and as somebody who has an observer of our time and interpreter of the past if a young man or woman came to you and and said what's your advice given all the things you've been through all the things you've done. What advice would you give to a young person today. The you've learned do you think would and help them on the path they're on. I would say and I'm not just saying this because I'm talking to you. I would say find a way to contribute to the public preferably through public service. I am a great admirers of people who put themselves on the line the Famous Mrs Roosevelt Man in the arena and now thankfully women in the arena. I know how hard public services and I greatly admire the people who are willing to do it. I think that that is the way the nation thrives and grows and comes to understand our changes as an American American society is by young people taking on that obligation and being willing to fulfill it and I know it's tough I really do and I've always felt guilty about not doing it myself. I'm the only member of my original nuclear family not to run for Congress but I've tried to contribute by explaining leaning American government but I do think that we need the participation of the citizenry in any way that they feel that they can do it and I would advise any young person to whatever else they do to also a very participatory citizens citizenship comes in many ways. I would argue it as a journalist who has really tried to understand of course you came from a unique insight in very few journalists had quite the background of their childhood the you had but I've always felt like you were really trying to understand and explain. This process of self government that on on the one hand is very robust and on the other hand is very very fragile in that sense. I guess I'd echo he said except I'd say that citizenship can come in many forms and that if you figure out your particular path for citizenship you can do an amazing amount for America and do it in a way which is interesting and fascinating this leads to a good life. I couldn't agree more issue of her. Happy Mother's life thank you. I'm happy to say that I now have middle aged. Children and sixteen grandchildren looking forward today with you very much. Thank you so much lovely.."