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The Daughters of Liberty: Facts & History

The Daughters of Liberty: Facts & History
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erica Cummings

Erica teaches college Humanities, Literature, and Writing classes and has a Master's degree in Humanities.

Read this lesson to learn more about the Daughters of Liberty--an important but often overlooked group of women who helped to further the American Revolutionary cause. After the lesson, take a quiz to see what you've learned.

The Women of the American Revolution

The men may have dominated the battlefield during the American Revolutionary War, but American independence could not have been achieved without the support of patriotic colonial women. One group of women in particular, called the Daughters of Liberty, supported and popularized revolutionary ideals of freedom and liberty both before and during the American Revolution. In fact, the Daughters of Liberty was founded in 1765, a full 11 years before the Declaration of Independence. This informal yet influential group of women organized boycotts of British goods and helped support a patriotic American spirit, and they garnered attention both at home and abroad. Here is a British cartoon satirizing American women boycotting tea:

British cartoon satirizing American women boycotting tea
British cartoon satirizing American women boycotting tea

Historical Background

In the years leading up to the American Revolutionary War, the British were imposing more and more restrictions and taxes on the American colonists. For example, the Sugar Act of 1764, the Stamp Act of 1765, and the Townshend Acts of 1767 all taxed the colonists without their approval. Dissatisfaction was understandably growing, and as a result, various patriot groups sprang up as a way to counteract what was seen as British tyranny. One of the most well-known groups was the Sons of Liberty. The Sons of Liberty were an informal yet powerful and passionate group of male colonists who organized minor acts of rebellion (like the Boston Tea Party) to British autocracy; they were founded in 1765 and lasted in one form or another throughout the American Revolutionary War.

Not wanting to be left out of the growing energy for independence, women quickly formed their own counterpart to the Sons of Liberty: the Daughters of Liberty. From 1765 throughout the American Revolutionary War, both the Sons and Daughters of Liberty rallied the public's support for freedom throughout the American colonies. Neither group advocated independence or outright rebellion at first; the desire for independence from Great Britain did not really gain traction until the mid-1770s. However, the passion of the Sons and Daughters of Liberty helped to set the stage for the eventual American Revolutionary War.

Activities of the Daughters of Liberty

So how exactly did the Daughters of Liberty support the cause for freedom? They organized activities designed to protest the British and support American colonial culture. For example, the Daughters of Liberty organized several non-importation boycotts of British goods, especially tea. In other words, these women promised not to buy or use British products that were being imported to the colonies. The most famous boycott occurred in 1774 when several women actually signed a petition promising not to drink British tea after the British passed the Tea Act in 1773. This was a huge sacrifice because the American colonists loved their tea! Nevertheless, the Daughters of Liberty convinced large segments of the population to quit buying British tea. This meant the colonists could avoid paying some British taxes, and it also caused tea sales to decrease, which financially hurt the British tea market. These boycotts thus made it clear that the colonists were willing to sacrifice treasured goods in order to stand up to what they saw as British tyranny.

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