Mercy Otis Warren Scribbles Her Way Into History

Mercy Otis Warren Scribbles Her Way Into History

Mercy Otis Warren was one of the most prolific public writers during the American Revolution.

Although she often wrote under a pen name, Warren authored many plays which helped spur the rebellion in Boston.  Mercy continued thereafter, becoming a major critic of the United States Constitution.

Additionally, Warren wrote one of the first history books about the American Revolution.


Mercy Otis Warren

Mercy Otis Warren came from the prominent Otis family of Massachusetts.

Mercy's father was ahead of his time in terms of educating women, and she was permitted to listen in on the private tutoring her brothers received.  Although most women were literate at the time, Mercy was permitted to pursue more thorough studies, specifically in the arts and humanities.

She married James Warren, a leader in the Massachusetts Assembly.  James, for his part, further encouraged his wife's writings, adoringly referring to her as Scribbler.



With the support of her friends Sam, John and Abigail Adams (as well as her brother James Otis, Mercy began publishing satirical plays.  The was done anonymously, of course, because at the time the idea of a woman publishing any work at all was frowned upon.

Her first three plays, released in the early 1770's, were highly critical of Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson.  Warren's works led to the Governor's removal from office, as well as predicted the violence of the coming American Revolution.

Mercy continued to publish plays and pamphlets during the war years, earning the praise of several leaders of the rebellion.


The New Nation

After the Revolutionary War was concluded and the Constitution published, Warren became an Anti-Federalist.  She published Observations on the New Constitution, which became one of the go-to documents for those arguing against ratification of the federal government.

Three years later, Mercy published Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous.  This was the first time Warren release a book under her own name.  As stated earlier, this was generally frowned on at the time.

Mercy, however, had such a respectable list of readers and supporters that Poems was regarded highly by her contemporaries.


Quarrel With Adams

After a decade of work, Warren released History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution.

This was one of the earliest histories of the Revolutionary War and, though it was told in the third person, the three-volume collection was based off her personal notes and letters.

The book took an Anti-Federalist slant and, while gaining praise from President Thomas Jefferson, was not seen favorably by most Federalists.  Most notably, Mercy's criticisms of John Adams led to her estrangement from both he and his wife, Abigail.  Fortunately, the old friends would become reacquainted in 1812 (about the time Adams was starting to speak with Jefferson again).

Mercy Otis Warren would pass away just a year later, leaving the world as a trailblazer in American literary history and women's rights traditions.


If you are interested in learning more about the interesting life of Mercy Otis Warren, I recommend you read 'A Woman's Dilemma' which discusses both her writing career and her association with many of the prominent people to Found the United States.  Pick it up at the library or through our affiliate Amazon with the link below.

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