Mercy Otis Warren

Mercy Otis Warren was a staunch advocate of independence from the tyranny of 18th century English monarchic rule. As poet, dramatist, satirist, and historian, her voice was one of the early calls in America for revolt against the British and their policies as implemented by Governor Thomas Hutchinson.

Born in West Barnstable, MA, the third of thirteen children born to James (elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1745), and Mary Otis, Mercy Otis Warren had no formal education. She was tutored, along with her older brother James, by a local pastor. James Otis shared her political beliefs and became a leader in the agitation against the Stamp Act of 1765. Mercy Otis read intensively, particularly Shakespeare, Pope and Raleigh and applied her literary background and talent in the service of the patriotic cause. She was a friend of Abigail and John Adams, and corresponded with both throughout her life. Her husband, James Warren, a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, was an outspoken revolutionary activist. These connections gave Mercy Otis Warren a political involvement highly unusual for a woman of her time.

From 1765 to 1789, she was near the center of revolutionary political events in Massachusetts. It is believed that her 1788 pamphlet “Observations on the New Constitution‚” played a role in the design and adoption of the Bill of Rights. She wrote letters, poems and a series of satirical plays: The Adulateur, The Defeat, and The Group, regarded as the first plays by an American woman. The plays focused on the Tory government in Massachusetts, particularly that of Governor Hutchinson, accusing him of gross ambition and hypocrisy, simultaneously making an outstanding defense for the revolutionary cause. The plays were printed, not staged. Puritan Boston prohibited staging plays. In 1805, after twenty-five years of research and writing, her three volume History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution appeared. Her History contains knowledgeable and unique observations concerning the events, leaders and campaigns of the period, and is the only full-scale history of the American Revolution written by a woman of the time.

Warren wrote in her preface: “every domestic enjoyment depends on the unimpaired possession of civil and religious liberty.”

Mercy Otis Warren

Year Honored: 2002

Birth: 1728 - 1814

Born In: Massachusetts

Achievements: Arts