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On the heels of the Boston Tea Party protest on December 16, 1773, North Carolinians staged a similar protest in support of American independence. Fifty-one women met on October 25, 1774, in Edenton with an agenda not unlike that of the fifty men in Boston Harbor, their shared cause being a protest against “taxation without representation.” The women (or some among their number) likely gathered at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth King, a prominent member of the Edenton community. Penelope Barker, wife of Thomas Barker, treasurer of the Province of North Carolina is believed to have organized the gathering. The extent of the advance planning is not known. The home of Mrs. King was so small that all fifty-one women likely could not have assembled therein. The house, just off the courthouse green, was pulled down in 1876.
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Women in Edenton resolved to stop buying English tea and cloth in protest against taxation without representation. The event became known as the Edenton Tea Party. The women drew up resolves which were signed by 51 local ladies. In January of 1775 a British newspaper reported that “many ladies of this Province have determined to give a memorable proof of their patriotism” having resolved not to drink anymore tea nor use anymore British cloth. Like the Boston Tea Party, the Edenton Tea Party was a bold demonstration of patriotism and the belief in individual rights.
The women drew up resolves, declaring their intention to boycott English tea and English cloth. The step was a momentous one for colonists, because drinking tea was an English tradition that defined social gatherings. To suspend the custom, a part of everyday life, showed just how disgusted they were with the English government. Like the Boston Tea Party, the Edenton Tea Party was a bold demonstration of patriotism and the belief in individual rights.
It was not long before caricatures and articles depicting the ladies as unruly were published in England. An account of the gathering at Mrs. King’s appeared in the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser on January 16, 1775, along with a drawing portraying the women in a less than flattering light. The story of the Edenton Tea Party has endured over the years. A colonial teapot mounted on a Revolutionary era cannon commemorates the meeting just off the green in front of the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse. The local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution is named for the event.
Thomas C. Parramore, Cradle of the Colony: The History of Edenton and Chowan County, North Carolina (1967)
Elizabeth Vann Moore, Guide Book to Historic Edenton and Chowan County (1977)
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)—sketch by Jacquelin Drane Nash
Richard Dillard, The Historic Tea-Party of Edenton, October 25th, 1774 (1925)
“Tempest in a Teapot,” Tar Heel Junior Historian (September 1971): 2-4
Daughters of the American Revolutions website: http://www.ncdar.org/EdentonTeaPartyChapter.htm
Contemporary cartoon of the Edenton Tea Party