Women in revolutionary America

Beatty_women revolutionWomen’s rights and agency during the era of the American Revolution were restricted by laws and social custom. Yet, according to In Dependence: Women and the Patriarchal State in Revolutionary America (New York University Press, 2023)—a new book from Boston College graduate Jacqueline Beatty—women exploited these confines, transforming constraints into vehicles of empowerment. From the publisher: Through a close reading of thousands of legislative, judicial, and institutional pleas across 70 years of history in three urban centers, Beatty illustrates the ways in which women asserted their status as dependents, demanding the protections owed to them as the assumed subordinates of men. In so doing, they claimed various forms of aid and assistance, won divorce suits, and defended themselves and their female friends in the face of patriarchal assumptions about their powerlessness. Ultimately, women in the revolutionary era were able to advocate for themselves and express a relative degree of power not in spite of their dependent status, but because of it. Unsurprisingly, says Beatty, the success of these methods was contingent on women’s race, class, and socioeconomic status, and the degree to which their language and behavior conformed to assumptions of Anglo-American femininity. Beatty, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Boston College in 2010, is an assistant professor of history at York College of Pennsylvania.

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