Font Size: AAA

Edenton Tea Party

The Edenton Tea Party was one of the earliest organized women’s political actions in United States history.  On October 25, 1774, Mrs. Penelope Barker organized, at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth King, fifty-one women in Edenton, North Carolina.  Together they formed an alliance wholeheartedly supporting the American cause against “taxation without representation.”

In response to the Tea Act of 1773, the Provincial Deputies of North Carolina resolved to boycott all British tea and cloth received after September 10, 1774.  The women of Edenton signed an agreement saying they were “determined to give memorable proof of their patriotism” and could not be “indifferent on any occasion that appears nearly to affect the peace and happiness of our country . . . it is a duty that we owe, not only to our near and dear connections . . . but to ourselves.”

The custom of drinking tea was a long-standing social English tradition.  Social gatherings were defined by the amount and quality of tea provided.  Boycotting a substance that was consumed on a daily basis, and that was so highly regarded in society, demonstrated the colonists strong disapproval of the 1773 Tea Act.  The Boston Tea Party, in December 1773, resulted in Parliament passing the “Intolerable Acts.”  It was proof of the Crown’s absolute authority.  Following the example of their Boston patriots, the women of Edenton boldly protested Britain’s what they considered unjust laws.

News of the Edenton Tea Party quickly reached Britain.  During the 1770s, political resistance was common.  But an organized women’s movement was not.  So, the Edenton Tea Party shocked the Western world.  From England, in January 1775, Arthur Iredell wrote his brother, James Iredell, describing England’s reaction to the Edenton Tea Party.  According to Arthur Iredell, the incident was not taken seriously because it was led by women.  He sarcastically remarked, “The only security on our side … is the probability that there are but few places in America which possess so much female artillery as Edenton.”  The Edenton women were also satirized in a political cartoon published in London in March 1775.  Even though the Edenton Tea Party was ridiculed in England, it was praised in the colonies.  The women of Edenton represented American frustrations with English monarchical rule and the need for American separation and independence.


Sources:

Lindley S. Butler, North Carolina and the Coming of the Revolution, 1763-1776 (Raleigh, 1976); Richard M. Dillard, “The Historic Tea-Party of Edenton: An Incident in North Carolina Connected with British Taxation,” in The North Carolina Booklet (Raleigh, 1926); William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (Chapel Hill, 1989); and Lou Rogers, Tar Heel Women (Raleigh, 1949).

By Richard Carney, North Carolina History Project


See Also:

Related Categories: Revolution Era, Colonial North Carolina, Women
Related Encyclopedia Entries: Hillsborough Confrontation (1768), New Hanover County (1729), Arthur Dobbs (1689-1765), Edward Vail (1717-1777), Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, Carteret County (1722), Robert Howe (1732-1786), Republicanism, William Hooper (1742-1790), Watauga Association, Cross Creek, William Richardson Davie (1756-1820), Alfred Moore (1755-1810), Principles of an American Whig, Stamp Tax Protests (Wilmington), Sons of Liberty, Non-Importation Movement, Merchants Committees of Inspection, The Justice and Policy of Taxing the American Colonies in Great Britain Considered, Provincial Convention (1775), Tories, John Alexander Lillington (c.1725-1786), Richard Dobbs Spaight (1758-1802), Archibald Maclaine (1728-1790), The Great Seal of the State of North Carolina, Philip Alston, John Penn (1741-1788), The Test, Port Act, Cornelius Harnett, Thomas Burke (1747-1783), David Fanning (1755-1825), William Richardson Davie (1756-1820), Polk County (1855), Lincoln County (1779), Gaston County (1846), Randolph County (1779), Edgecombe County (1741), Guilford County (1771), Battle of Guilford Court House, Chowan County (1681), Pamlico County (1872), Nash County (1777), Battle at the Mouth of Sandy Creek, Battle of Plymouth (1864), Granville County (1746), Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge, Rutherford's Campaign, Royal Governor William Tryon (1729 - 1788), Tryon Palace, Royal Governor Josiah Martin (1737 - 1786), Battle of Cowan’s Ford (February 1, 1781), The Battle of Ramsour’s Mill (June 20, 1780), Quitrents (Colonial Period), Carolina Charter of 1663, To The Inhabitants of Great Britain, Thomas Burke (1744-1783), Richard Caswell , Wilmington Tea Party
Related Commentary: Edenton Tea Party: An American First, When Wilmington Threw A Tea Party: Women and Political Awareness in Revolution-Era North Carolina, Revolutionary Characters: What Made the Founders Different, 1771 Alamance: The First Battle of Our American Revolution, Defending Liberty From The Bench, Defending Liberty From the Bench

Timeline: 1664-1775
Region: Coastal Plain

In March 1775, a political cartoon satirized the women who participated in the Edenton Tea Party. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.

In March 1775, a political cartoon satirized the women who participated in the Edenton Tea Party. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.


Penelope Barker is credited for organizing the women who participated in the Edenton Tea Party. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries.

Penelope Barker is credited for organizing the women who participated in the Edenton Tea Party. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries.



© 2014 John Locke Foundation | 200 West Morgan St., Raleigh, NC 27601, Voice: (919) 828-3876
Website design & development by DesignHammer Media Group, LLC. Building Smarter Websites.