We end our celebration of Women’s History Month with a reflection on the legacy of Mercy Otis Warren. Warren was a political playwright, published poet, historian, and political advisor during the American Revolution and early republic. At a time in history when women were not expected to acquire basic literacy skills, let alone engage in politics, Warren demanded to observe her brother’s lessons where she developed a particular interest in history and politics.
In the 1760’s, after marrying and while raising five children, her home became a meeting place for Patriots. She was a correspondent and political advisor to Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, George Washington, and John Adams, among others. During the American Revolution she also penned her political observations into satires and pamphlets that were published in the newspapers, including the Boston Gazette.
After the American Revolution, and while the new Constitution was being heavily debated, Warren became an Anti-Federalist. In her essay published in 1788 under the pseudonym “A Columbian Patriot,” Warren argued that the Constitution lacked a bill of rights and would result in “an aristocratic tyranny” and an “uncontrolled despotism.” She was loath “to relinquish . . . the rights of man for the dignity of government.” Her thoughtful essay contributed to the passage of the Bill of Rights by Congress in 1789.
In 1805, Warren published History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, one of the first nonfiction books published by a woman in America. She continued to write and correspond with her political friends until her death at age eighty-six.
Warren penned in one of her letters to Abigail Adams that the “relegation of women to minor concerns” did not reflect their inferior intellect, but rather the inferior opportunities offered to them. We recognize and champion Warren’s vision for the equal respect and equal rights of women.