Historical American: Historian of the Revolution
July 19, 2016
MERCY OTIS WARREN was born on Sept. 14, 1728 in Barnstable, Mass. She was true-blue Puritan, a Mayflower descendent who lived a mere stone’s throw from Plymouth Rock. Considered by some to be the first American woman to write primarily for the public, Mercy was sister to political activist James Otis, who was early involved in events leading to the American Revolution.
Although Mercy received no formal schooling, she devoured world history, English literature, Enlightenment philosophy, and everything else that came her way.
In 1754 she married James Warren, a merchant and farmer who went on to serve in the Massachusetts state legislature (1766–78), and bore five children. Mercy was personally acquainted with most of the leaders of the Revolution because of her husband’s political associations.
After her brother James’s brutal beating by colonial revenue officers in 1769, Mercy hosted protest meetings at her home that resulted in the organization of the Committees of Correspondence. She became both a poet and a historian with the publication of a trio of scathingly polemical plays in verse that appeared serially in a Boston newspaper.
In 1788 she published Observations on the New Constitution. Mercy maintained social and political correspondences with her friends John and Abigail Adams. In 1790 she published Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous, a collection of her works that contained two new plays, The Sack of Rome and The Ladies of Castille. In 1805 Warren completed a three-volume history titled A History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution.
Gay Ingram is author of the historical novel, Not Bound by Blood.