• Amy

Women of the Boston Tea Party

The night of December 16th, 1773, hoards of colonial men, many disguised as American Indians, swarmed three English ships in the Boston Harbor. They launched 342 tea chests overboard.

90,0000 pounds of tea steeped in the Harbor's dark waters while the activists steamed with anger above.

Source: W.D. Cooper. Boston Tea Party in The History of North America. London: E. Newberry, 1789.

During colonial times, the amount of tea a woman served at her home established her social status. The settlers reputedly drank more tea than the English themselves. To boost both England’s economy and authority over its colonies, England made a rule that the colonies were only allowed to purchase tea through England. Further insulting the colonists, England added a tax to tea purchases. The colonists fumed over taxation without representation and threatened to secede.

Penelope Barker was the wealthiest woman in colonial North Carolina. Her husband, who’d gone to England to represent North Carolina’s interests, was unable to return to her for 17 years. Meanwhile, Penelope managed all the affairs at home, including leading the first major act of civil disobedience by women in American colonial history. 10 months after the Boston Tea Party, Penelope and 50 other women identified their names in a public promise to boycott English goods. The American boycotts crippled England’s economy and furthered the colonists goals toward independence.

As an alternative to tea, colonial women grew a variety of herbs in their “Liberty Gardens,” including the herbs in our commemorative blend. Many of the herbs would have been seeds their mothers or grandmothers brought with them on their original voyages across the ocean to America, including lavender and mullein. Their foremothers may have learned local plants, like ceanothus, from Native Americans. Colonial women did not abandon the social ritual of tea by boycotting it; but they did change the course of history by changing the leaves they steeped. We hope you will enjoy our commemorative blend, Penelope, available on our website for a limited time through the Spring season.