the boston coffee party book cover llustrated by Emily McCully.
Harper Collins.

A real incident during the American Revolution showing women creating their own version of The Boston Tea Party.


“There really was a “Boston Coffee Party” during the American Revolution in which women punished a selfish merchant who was hoarding his coffee bean stock during the wartime shortage until the price was high enough for profit. Rappaport tells a story based on this historic detail from the point of view of two young sisters of that time, in words that are easy to read but convey the feelings of the time and the action of the plot. McCully’s line drawings with watercolor and charcoal create a sense of time and place while they convey the action through movement and gesture.” –School Library Journal


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Women and Revolutionary War

Women were not allowed to fight in the Revolutionary army but they participated in the war effort in many ways. They used their social roles in the community and their economic power in the household to engage in boycotts and riots. For example to protest various taxes imposed by the British government, colonial women not only refused to purchase boycotted goods like imported cloth and tea from Britain, but spun their own cloth (referred to as “homespun”). They also sewed shirts and blankets with the homespun for the Continental Army.

The Boston Tea Party, orchestrated by colonial men, is the most well known boycott but the participation of women in boycotts was essential because as head of the households, they were often responsible for purchasing the goods. They were the ones who actually bought locally produced goods or chose to make goods at home to replace those previously purchased from the British.

Penelope Barker

Penelope Barker, Image courtesy of the North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries.

Like the Boston Coffee Party, another important boycott led by women took place in North Carolina in 1774. Fifty-one women (reportedly led by Penelope Barker) in the community of Edenton singed a petition proclaiming their intent not to purchase British goods.

Below is an excerpt from their petition printed in the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser on January 16, 1775.

The Provincial Deputies of North Carolina, having resolved not to drink any more tea, nor wear any more British cloth, many ladies of this province have determined to give memorable proof of their patriotism, and have accordingly entered into the following honourable and spirited association. I send it to you to shew your fair countrywomen, how zealously and faithfully, American ladies follow the laudable example of their husbands, and what opposition your matchless Ministers may expect to receive from a people thus firmly united against them…We cannot be indifferent on any occasion that appears nearly to affect the peace and happiness of our country, and . . . it is a duty which we owe, not only to our near and dear connections, but to ourselves.”

What do the women say they are doing? Why are they doing it?
How do you think patriots in North Carolina responded to this? How do you think the British responded?

Academic article on boycotting and rioting during the Revolutionary War:

Brief piece on Sons and Daughters of Liberty:

Women and Revolutionary War:

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