Revolutionary War

1769: Spinners of Liberty

Following the failure of the Stamp Act 1765, the Townshend Acts were a series of acts of the British Parliament during 1767 and 1768, among which was a tax on items the Colonists bought from Britain. To deprive the hated Townshend Acts of all value as a measure for revenue, the merchants of Boston and other large towns bound themselves by agreements not to purchase any of the articles taxed.

An Ipswich Town meeting, held on March 19, 1770, adopted a resolution “Taking under consideration the Distressed State of Trade of this Government, and the Whole Continent by Reason of a Late Act of Parliament Imposing Duties on Tea, Glass, etc. : Voted, that we are Determined to Retrench all Extravagances and that we will to the utmost of our Power & Ability Encourage our own Manufactures and that we will not by ourselves or any for or under us Directly or Indirectly Purchase any Goods of the Persons who have Imported or Continue to Import or any Person or Trader who shall Purchase any Goods of said Importer Contrary to the agreement of the Merchants in Boston and the other Trading Towns in this Government & the neighboring Colonies, Until they make a Publick Retraction or a General Importation Takes Place.

The women of Massachusetts, calling themselves the Daughters of Liberty, set themselves vigorously to the making of cotton and woolen fabrics in their homes, that there might be no sale for English goods. Spinning bees became a popular amusement. A communication from Ipswich, dated June 22, 1769, gives a graphic account of one of these unique affairs:

Spinning Bee

A spinning bee

“It gives us a noble Prospect to see what a spirit of Industry and Frugality prevails at this day in the American young Ladies. Yesterday morning very early the young Ladies in that Parish of this Town called Chebacco (now the town of Essex), to the number of 77, assembled at the house of the Rev. Mr. John Cleaveland with their spinning wheels; and though the Weather that day was extremely hot, and divers of the young Ladies were but about 13 years of Age, yet by six o’ the clock in the Afternoon they spun of Linen Yarn, 440 Knots, and carded and spun of Cotton, 730 Knots, and of Tow 600, in all 1770 Knots, which make 177 ten-knot-skeins, all good yarn, and generously gave their Work and some brought Cotton and Flax with them, more than they spun themselves, as a Present.

“After the Music of the Wheels was over, Mr. Cleaveland entertained them with a Sermon, concluded by observing, how the Women might recover to this Country the full and free Enjoyment of all our Rights, Properties and Privileges (which is more than the Men have been able to do), and so have the Honour of preventing the Ruin of the whole British empire viz. by living upon as far as possible only the Produce of the Country, and to be sure, to lay aside the use of all foreign Teas. Also by wearing, as far as possible only Cloathing of this Country’s manufacture.

“The women of the Linebrook Parish to the number of 13, met at the house of Rev. George Leslie on August 15th, “in the Design of a spinning match. One of these young ladies carded the whole of the day and of the other twelve, some carded and spun and others only spun.” After the work was done, the pastor “entertained the spinners and a number of others of both sexes with a discourse.” It is unknown if the men were permitted a part in the final exercises of the day.

“From the town of Middleton came the extraordinary report, that there were between seventy and eighty looms in the ninety dwellings, and that from January 1769 to January 1770, there were woven on these looms, 20,522 yards of cloth, more than 40 yards apiece for every man, woman and child.”

“The Essex Gazette. Feb. 27, 1770 reported “Numerous instances of female benevolence and harmony, which have been exhibited in these times, and so well reprove the jarring dissensions of the men in Ipswich lately. At the house of the Rev. Mr. Dana, a numerous band of ladies in harmonious concert have again “laid their hands to the spindle and presented the fruit of their generous toil: 118 rim of good yarn viz, 88 linen, 30 cotton, the materials, provisions and handsome attendance, all furnished by themselves, and those who joined with them.”

During the Revolution, Ipswich had 600 women and girls supporting the town by producing more than 40,000 yards of Ipswich lace annually.

Source: Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony by Thomas Franklin Waters

The Pillow Lace Tercentenary plaque on High Street in Ipswich Ipswich Pillow lace - In the late eighteenth century, Ipswich had 600 women and girls producing more than 40,000 yards of lace annually. Ipswich industrialists imported machines from England to mechanize and speed up the operation, which destroyed the hand-made lace industry.
Ipswich MA joins the Revolution Ipswich and the breach with Britain - On June 10th, 1776, the men of Ipswich, in Town-meeting assembled, instructed their Representatives, that if the Continental Congress should for the safety of the said Colonies declare them Independent of the Kingdom of Great Britain, they will solemnly engage with their lives and Fortunes to support them in the Measure.

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