Edenton Tea Party Historical Marker
An image of the Edenton Tea Party historical marker.
A British political cartoon satirizing the women of the Edenton Tea Party.
An image of the signatures of the 51 women, published in the Virginia Gazette.
An image of Penelope Barker, President of the Edenton Tea Party.
Backstory and Context
The 1773 Tea Act allowed the British East India Company to have a monopoly on the funds gained by the massive tea trade in the original thirteen colonies. After the Boston Tea Party of 1773, Great Britain passed a number of laws in an attempt to stifle colonists' rebellion known as the "Intolerable Acts." These acts closed Boston Harbor from trade, permitted only food and firewood into the port, banned town meetings, and increased the power of British rule. Despite their intention, the Intolerable Acts only served to further anger colonists. North Carolina's First Provincial Congress convened in 1774, resolving to bar trade with Great Britain.
On October 25th, 1774 in response to this oppression and in support of North Carolina's First Provincial Congress, 51 women in Edenton, North Carolina resolved to stand in solidarity against the restrictive rule of Great Britain. Led by Penelope Barker, the Edenton Tea Party wrote a number of resolves which declared their intention to boycott English tea and cloth, despite the colony's reliance on British goods. After finishing their resolves, each the women signed the document and sent it to England in a bold demonstration of resistance to tyrannical British rule. The Edenton Tea Party was a monumental moment in history not so much because of the stances taken, as boycotts were common across the thirteen colonies, but because the act of protest was organized entirely by women, which was unheard of during colonial times due to women's lack of political and social autonomy.
Despite the women of the Edenton Tea Party's courageous demonstration against British rule, this event went largely unrecorded for a number of years in North Carolina's history. One account of the event appeared in The Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser on January 16th, 1775, which satirized the women's protest (the cartoon used in this newspaper is pictured below.) The cartoon portrayed the women of the Edenton Tea Party as bad mothers and immoral in an effort to devalue their political statement. It wasn't until 1827, when a North Carolina native naval officer purchased a rendering of the cartoon in a shop abroad, that North Carolina citizens attempted to piece together this significant moment in history. Because of the lack of sources about the Edenton Tea Party, there have been a number of disputed ideas pertaining to this moment in history. However, it is sure that the women of Edenton did send their document to England in 1774, thus establishing the Edenton Tea Party as one of the first public political demonstrations of protest by women in America. Today, a historical marker commemorating the Edenton Tea Party is stationed along West Queen Street in Edenton, North Carolina.
Carney, Richard. "Edenton Tea Party." North Carolina History Project, https://northcarolinahistory.org/encyclopedia/edenton-tea-party/. Accessed 16 April 2020.
Women of Edenton Resolve to Forego English Tea, 1774, North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Accessed April 21st 2020. https://www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2014/10/25/women-of-edenton-resolve-to-forego-english-tea-1774.