Women of Edenton

Research by April Carroll, Camille White, and Sarah Jimison

  1. “A Society of Patriotic Ladies”

The image is called A Society of Patriotic Ladies, and was drawn by Philip Dawe. This cartoon is a satirical interpretation of the Edenton Tea Party, and appeared in a London newspaper on March 25, 1775. The fifty-one women are portrayed with masculine features, and representative of various social backgrounds, including a female slave. In the foreground, a child can be seen playing without supervision, suggesting the women are neglectful in their maternal duties. You can also see a dog, which represent loyalty, urinating on a box of tea. In the background, the ladies are drinking from a punch bowl, an activity reserved for men at social gatherings, and appear to be fraternizing promiscuously. In this image, Dawe insinuates that these women were not “ladies”, and simultaneously suggests colonial protests were organized by people who were unfit to express political opinions or wield political power.


To see a larger image, click here.


2. Virginia Gazette, November 3, 1774

The petition from the women of Edenton appeared in print form in the Virginia Gazette along with the names of those who signed. In their statement, the women pledge to “do every Thing as far as lies in our Power to testify our sincere Adherence to the [Peace and Happiness of our Country].”

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To view the whole document, click here.

3. Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, January 16, 1775

The petition from the women of Edenton received attention from the British press as well. Here, the petition appears in a London newspaper alongside a preface sent by an observer in North Carolina. The commentary states that “many ladies of this province have determined to give a memorable proof of their patriotism.”

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To view the complete document, click here.

4. Letter from Arthur Iredell to James Iredell, January 31, 1775

The letter found in the excerpt of the book is from Arthur Iredell. He wrote his letter to his brother James Iredell giving London’s point of view on the Edenton Tea Party. Arthur Iredell was located in London at the time and informed his brother that the people of London made a mockery of it. This reprint is from The North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. II (January, 1901) 120-1.

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To read the complete letter, click here.

5. Biography and Image of Penelope Barker

Penelope Barker, born in 1728, is remembered as a courageous woman due to her leadership in Edenton, North Carolina. On October 25th, 1774, Barker organized 51 women from the town to condemn the purchasing of British imports by publicly signing a declaration of their own grievances against the Crown. This event was during a time when women were becoming increasingly influential in revolutionary politics. Barker had outlived three of her husbands, so she was quite adept at handling her household, lands and money. Because she was known as a woman in control, it gave the other women who signed the petition great courage. The Boston Tea Party, which had occurred almost a year prior, was only led by men in costumes to protect their identity. Barker, however, scorned the idea of hiding and insisted on the public signatures of the 51 women to the petition. She said, “Maybe it has only been men who have protested the king up to now. That only means we women have taken too long to let our voices be heard. We are signing our names to a document, not hiding ourselves behind costumes like the men in Boston did at their tea party. The British will know who we are.”