Women and the American Revolution: A Five-Part Course with Dr. Richard Bell - Context Travel

Women and the American Revolution: A Five-Part Course with Dr. Richard Bell


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Starts on Sunday, May 30, 2021 at 3:00 PM EDT
  • Sunday, May 30, 2021 at 3:00 PM EDT
  • Sunday, June 06, 2021 at 3:00 PM EDT
  • Sunday, June 13, 2021 at 3:00 PM EDT
  • Sunday, June 20, 2021 at 3:00 PM EDT
  • Sunday, June 27, 2021 at 3:00 PM EDT
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The revolutionary war was fought on battlefields, in forests, and on the homefront—and the contributions of American women shaped the fight at every turn. They did this in every way imaginable, and while some prospered and thrived when the war came, others faltered and fell. Many American women fought for the patriot cause while almost as many others fought to stop them. The incredible spectrum of female participation in America’s founding conflict defies easy categorization and reminds us that the legacy of the revolution for American women was not simple, single, or remotely cut and dried.

This five-part course examines the varied roles of women in the American Revolution. Lecture one explores the life of Jane Mecom, the beloved but beggared sister of Benjamin Franklin whose rollercoaster ride through the American Revolution illuminates the experiences of other women on society’s bottom ranks. Lecture two turns to the homefront and uses the wartime labors of Mary Silliman, a Connecticut homemaker and mother, to understand the ways that ordinary women kept families and farms together while the war raged around them.

Lecture three pushes deep into the war itself to reconstruct the wartime experiences of Deborah Sampson, the 21-year-old weaver who disguised herself as a man to serve 17 distinguished months in George Washington’s Continental Army. Lecture four tells the story of Molly Brant, the Native Mohawk woman who spent the war trying to hold together the fragile military alliance between the Iroquois League and the British Army. The final lecture then follows the story of the American Revolution into the Early Republic, using the life of Maine midwife Martha Ballard to understand how women’s lives changed—and stayed the same—after the patriots won the war.

Lecture 1: Jane Mecom

This first lecture reconstructs the American Revolution from the perspective of Jane Mecom, the widow of a Boston shopkeeper—and the favorite little sister of Benjamin Franklin. During the war, Jane would be menaced by soldiers and made a refugee. She would lose her home and her possessions. All this was sadly typical for many other poor women brought low by the revolutionary crisis.

Lecture 2: Mary Silliman

This second lecture explores the several dramatic and frightening wartime experiences that punctuated the life of Mary Silliman, the wife and step-mother of two kidnapped patriot militiamen in order to illuminate larger truths about the toll that the war took on the fortunes, health, and sanity of many other home front families.

Lecture 3: Deborah Sampson

This third lecture tells the extraordinary story of Deborah Sampson, the young Massachusetts woman who disguised herself as a man named Robert Shurtlieff in order to fight in the Continental Army. It poses some simple questions: Who was she? Why did she do it? How did she get away with it? And how did her wartime adventures in George Washington’s Army change her life?

Lecture 4: Molly Brant

This fourth lecture explores the American Revolution in Indian Country by focusing upon a Native Mohawk known to us as Molly Brant, the widow of a powerful British diplomat. Straddling two worlds – British and Iroquois – Molly spent the war trying to fill the political vacuum created by her husband’s death and quickly emerged as the most important military and cultural broker in Native America.

Lecture 5: Martha Ballard

This last lecture tells the story of a Maine midwife named Martha Ballard, a quiet, dutiful wife, a busy mother, and a kind neighbor whose life was lived entirely in some very small towns. For that reason, perhaps, although she lived through many exciting changes in urban women’s sexual and political circumstances, her life seems – on the surface at least – to have been almost untouched by the 18th-century gender revolution.

Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland and author of the new book Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home which is shortlisted for the George Washington Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, and the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar award. He serves as a Trustee of the Maryland Center for History and Culture, as an elected member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

 

How does it work?

This is a five-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background in American history, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $175 for four lectures.

Is a recording available?

In general, our courses are not recorded. However, if you need to miss a lecture please let us know in advance and we can arrange for a recording for that session on an individual basis.

This course is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 10 reviews
100%
(10)
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0%
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E
E.
Illuminating!

As always, Dr. Bell brings history to life, this time the many faceted lives of women during the American Revolution. A truly illuminating discussion. I only wish that I were a sponge so that I could absorb all of the wonderful information Dr. Bell always provides.

J
J.M.
Enlightening Class

This class shines a light on some extraordinary and heroic women who did a lot more than sew flags during the American Revolution.

V
V.
Fantastic course

This four-session course was an experience where each lecture was fascinating in its own right yet the process of taking the four course sessions was such that the sum of the whole was even greater than the wonderfulness of the parts. By using four different women, one per course session, as a focus, Rick Bell was able to lead us through exploring many themes beyond the women's lives themselves, so that by the end I had a very rich sense of everyday life for women in very different walks of life during the American Revolution as well as a rich sense of the different ways women interacted with the Revolution, or not, and why. Rick Bell is a brilliant historian and public speaker, and this course was very, very good.

M
M.T.
Women and the American Revolution is an excellent course!

This is definitely a 5-star course! Each of the four sessions focused on a different woman, with Dr. Bell using each woman's experience to illustrate various aspects of the times in which she lived. As always, Dr. Bell's presentation was engaging and thought-provoking. I highly recommend this course.

P
P.R.
Women and the American Revolution: Martha Ballard

Excellent look at the last of 4 women who each played a unique role directly or in the backgroup of the American Revolution. I consider myself to be a fairly well informed feminist and have to admit I hadn't thought about what was going on with women during the Revolution. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm guessing Rick had to dig deep to find sources about such women at that time and am grateful that it occurred to him to do so.

Customer Reviews

Based on 10 reviews
100%
(10)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
E
E.
Illuminating!

As always, Dr. Bell brings history to life, this time the many faceted lives of women during the American Revolution. A truly illuminating discussion. I only wish that I were a sponge so that I could absorb all of the wonderful information Dr. Bell always provides.

J
J.M.
Enlightening Class

This class shines a light on some extraordinary and heroic women who did a lot more than sew flags during the American Revolution.

V
V.
Fantastic course

This four-session course was an experience where each lecture was fascinating in its own right yet the process of taking the four course sessions was such that the sum of the whole was even greater than the wonderfulness of the parts. By using four different women, one per course session, as a focus, Rick Bell was able to lead us through exploring many themes beyond the women's lives themselves, so that by the end I had a very rich sense of everyday life for women in very different walks of life during the American Revolution as well as a rich sense of the different ways women interacted with the Revolution, or not, and why. Rick Bell is a brilliant historian and public speaker, and this course was very, very good.

M
M.T.
Women and the American Revolution is an excellent course!

This is definitely a 5-star course! Each of the four sessions focused on a different woman, with Dr. Bell using each woman's experience to illustrate various aspects of the times in which she lived. As always, Dr. Bell's presentation was engaging and thought-provoking. I highly recommend this course.

P
P.R.
Women and the American Revolution: Martha Ballard

Excellent look at the last of 4 women who each played a unique role directly or in the backgroup of the American Revolution. I consider myself to be a fairly well informed feminist and have to admit I hadn't thought about what was going on with women during the Revolution. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm guessing Rick had to dig deep to find sources about such women at that time and am grateful that it occurred to him to do so.