Sunday, December 16, 2007

Women Tea & Champagne

"the cause of Boston was the cause of us all."
Daniel Earle
As Americans, we are all familiar with the details leading up to the Boston Tea Party. I, for one, did not realize that the Boston Tea Party was also the inspiration for a number of similar events in colonial America. Just months after the more famous Boston Tea party, "Revolutionary Tea Parties" were staged across the colonies.


Although women in the colonies were not "allowed" to actively discuss politics, social tea parties were one of the first acceptable places women were able to gather amongst themselves.
On October 25, 1774, Penelope Barker called a meeting of local women, and 51 of them signed a document pledging to back the assemblymen in giving up British goods. The Edenton Tea Party, as their gesture came to be called, is believed to be the first purely political action by women in the American colonies. (In response a London newspaper published a caricature of masculine-looking mothers neglecting their children, calling it “A Society of Patriotic Ladies at Edenton in North Carolina.”) (source)
It was most natural that leading women of the time would inspire protests and have followers who would pledge not to drink tea or buy English goods. After all, colonial women were big tea drinkers and the tea boycott, was a relatively mild way for women to identify themselves and their household as part of the patriot war effort. Other colonial cities where "tea parties" were held included Maryland, South Carolina and North Carolina. Penelope Padgett Hodgson Craven Barker, was the leader of the Edenton Tea Party in North Carolina. Penelope Barker, decided that she wanted to do something for the American cause. She visited over 50 homes in the early fall of 1774 and invited ladies to a very special tea party to be held on October 25, 1774, at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth King. Some of Mrs. Barker's neighbors eagerly agreed to attend, and others refused. There, she encouraged her neighbors and friends to stop drinking English tea and using English products until the King repealed the tea tax.
"Here and now, I propose that we solemnly engage to drink only apple cider, buttermilk, or cool spring water so long as the King insists that his special tax remain upon tea from India!" Penelope Barker

Those women who were there, became The Signers of the Resolutions of the Edenton Tea Party. It is said, this document is the first purely political action by women in the American Colonies.
"As we cannot be indifferent on any occasion that appears nearly to affect the peace and happiness of our country, and as it has thought necessary, for the public good, to enter into several particular resolves by a meeting of Members deputed from the whole Province, it is a duty which we owe, not only to our near and dear connections who have concurred in them, but to ourselves who are essentially interested in their welfare, to do everything as far as lies in our power to testify our sincere adherence to the same: and we do therefore accordingly subscribe this paper, as a witness of our fixed intention and solemn determination to do so."
A contemporary account of the Edenton Tea Party, along with the resolution, its signers and a caricature appeared in the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser portraying the women with masculine features. We must remember, this was printed in England to make the colonials in America look foolish.
Penelope Padgett Hodgson Craven Barker has quite an interesting background. Her first husband John Hodgson died when she was 19 and expecting her second child. She inherited substantial property from Hodgson. Her second husband, John Craven also died and left her all of his property. When Thomas Barker, her third husband died, he left Penelope all his property. Penelope died in 1796. She was a rare colonial woman in that she completely managed her own affairs. She had borne 5 children and raised 4 others. She outlived all but one. source
The legacy of these women is represented by the Edenton town symbol, a tea kettle atop the barrel of a cannon.


When the colonists responded by boycotting tea, it also helped link the colonies together. Particularly important to the movement were the activities of colonial women, who were one of the principal consumers of tea. As mistresses of the domestic economy, housewives used their purchasing power to support the Patriot cause. Women refused to purchase British manufactured goods for use in their homes and decisions made to boycott tea would not have been possible if women had not created a substitute for the imported tea. Hence, "Liberty Teas" of Colonial America were brewed. To drink these teas was a sign of defiance of the Crown. Black tea was boycotted and substituted with domestically grown herbs, some such as Oswego Tea from the Oswego Indians had been introduced to the early settlers by American Indians. Although the colonial housewife had made drinks from the herbs in her garden long before the Boston Tea Party, she was now forced to use herbal teas calling them "Patriotic Teas" instead. Women brewed herbal teas from rosemary, lavender, thyme, chamomile, sage, mint and lemon balm. American tea was also made from raspberry leaves and stalks of whorled loosestrife plant. Liberty Teas often included red rose petals, linden blossoms, elder, red clover, violets and goldenrod. Special flavor additions came from sassafras and willow tree barks, the twigs of sweet gum, the seeds of fennel and dill, and the fruits of the rosebush, called rosehips. "Liberty teas," remained popular even after the British tea taxes were no longer an issue.
Colonial New Hampshire women met at local homes and organized what became a campaign to ban English tea from their households. Although consuming a great deal of tea at that time, New Hampshire's residents were determined not to drink it any further. Instead they used alternative "Liberty Teas." These included Labrador tea (from the Red Root bush that few along New England riverbanks), Ever Green tea (made from evergreen needles), New Jersey tea (from Ceanothus americanus), Indian Lemonade Tea (using red sumac berries), Raspberry Leaf tea, and teas made from herb garden flavors. 
The spark that lit my interest in the Edenton Tea Party came from the cookbook Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie by Bill Neal. Unfortunately, I do not have the book here with me in New York but, I do have the recipe he includes for tea-cake. Biscuits, Spoonbread and Sweet Potato Pie also gives an account of the Edenton Tea Party. From the book:
"The first known organized political action by women in the American colonies took place in the lovely port of Edenton, North Carolina, on October 25, 1774." Women from five counties, he notes, met under the leadership of Penelope Barker. They were responding to actions of the British Parliament and took to issuing protest resolutions. These resolutions now rest in the British Museum, but the tea-cake recipe used for their party remains, according to Neal, a traditional favorite in our state.
To make the cakes, you will need:
3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. lightly packed dark brown sugar

6 Tb. butter

6 Tb. lard

1 tsp. baking soda

4 c. all-purpose flour

1 Tb. warm water

Beat the eggs well; then next beat in the brown sugar. Dissolve the baking soda in the warm water; then stir into the eggs along with the vanilla. Work the butter and lard into the flour, then stir in the egg mixture. Chill, then roll out thinly. Cut into shapes (rounds, squares, diamonds) and bake on lightly buttered baking sheets in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F. for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a rack. Makes about 100 cookies.


Nicole-Barbe Ponsardin (Madame Clicquot) was born on 16 December 1777, She married François Clicquot on 10 June 1798, It was a storybook wedding in the fabled champagne town of Reims. Her husband died on October 23, 1805, leaving her a widow (French veuve) and in control of the company. Up until this point, the company was splitting its affairs between Champagne production, banking, and wool trading. Under Madame Clicquot's guidance, the company invested its entire focus into Champagne production. The remarkable Madame Clicquot was known as "la grande dame de la Champagne" and is often considered the first businesswoman of the modern era. She is still a source of inspiration to her successors. wikipedia
La Veuve Clicquot was one of the famous widows of the Champagne-history. The Veuve Clicquot Champagne House is named after Madame Clicquot who took over her husband’s small champagne business when he died. In 1804 Madame Clicquot invented pink champagne and the mushroom shaped cork. source
During the Napoleonic Wars, she was successful in exporting her champagne (to Imperial Russia in 1814, among others) and establishing it in the royal courts. One of her most significant triumphs was sending a secret shipment of her Champagne to Russia in 1814 in defiance of Napoleon's blockade. source
Mrs Nicole Barbe Ponsardin from early on took a lively interest in the Champagne business of her husband François Clicquot. She took the reins of the estate at the untimely death of the latter without hesitation. At that time, she was a young widow of only 27. This self-willed and innovative woman did her utmost to develop and transform her family-in-law’s trade into a great Champagne House. She was even considered by her contemporaries as La Grande Dame de la Champagne. source
The Veuve Clicquot Award was launched in France in 1972 to commemorate Madame Clicquot, and to honour women who exemplify the qualities that earned her an international reputation as 'la grande dame de la Champagne' – vision, innovation, entrepreneurial drive, leadership, individuality and tenacity. source
  • 1.Penelope Barker, (bio)
  • 2. The Story of Mrs. Barker's Tea Party
  • 3. The Edenton Tea Party @ PBS
  • 4. The Signers of the Resolutions of the Edenton Tea Party
  • 5. The Barker House
  • 6. Penelope's Tea Caddy
  • 7. Which Way to the Tea Party...
  • 8. Wilmington Tea Party
  • 9. Sarah Bradlee Fulton "Mother of the Boston Tea Party"
    Tea Resources
  • 1. Colonial Tea Parties
  • 2. The Robinson Tea Chest
  • 3. Goldenrod Tea (The Patriotic Species
  • 4. Liberty Tea
  • 5. Patriotic Tea Source
    Madame Clicquot Resources
  • 1. Miss Charming's Alcohol Timeline 1800's
  • 2. eCocktail
  • 3. Louis Bohne

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