Edenton Tea Party
by Matt Stokes
Research Branch, NC Office of Archives and History
See also: Edenton Tea Party (Encyclopedia of North Carolina)
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) 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 party. 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.
The women drew up resolves, declaring their intention to boycott English tea and English cloth. They stated, “We, the Ladys of Edenton, do hereby solemnly engage not to conform to the Pernicious custom of drinking tea,” and that “We, the aforesaid Ladys will not promote ye wear of any manufacturer from England until such time that all acts which tend to enslave our Native country shall be repealed.” 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.
References and additional resources:
Parramore, Thomas C. 1967. Cradle of the colony: the history of Chowan County and Edenton, North Carolina. [Edenton, N.C.]: Edenton Chamber of Commerce.
Moore, Elizabeth Vann. 1989. Guide book, historic Edenton and Chowan County: Edenton, North Carolina, incoporated 1722. [Edenton, N.C.]: Edenton's Woman's Club.
Powell, William Stevens, and Jay Mazzocchi. 2006. Encyclopedia of North Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Dillard, Richard. [from old catalog]. 1906. The historic tea-party of Edenton, October 25th, 1774.
“Tempest in a Teapot,” Tar Heel Junior Historian (September 1971): 2-4
Daughters of the American Revolutions website: http://www.ncdar.org/EdentonTeaPartyChapter.htm
"Mrs. Penelope Barker/President of the Edenton Tea Party of 1774." From the North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh, NC.
2 August 2010 | Stokes, Matt