While overseas, I found it fascinating how people took their tea. In such places as England and Japan, there can be many ceremonies in having a simple cup of tea. Compared to the US, where it is almost sacrilege to drink tea any other way than on ice with zero ceremony. However, in the early days of our country, we held with the pomp and ceremony of tea each day. Every colonial home had some type of tea service, consisting of delicate cups and ornate teapots to serve tea each day.
Interestingly, it would all change due to a tax, the Tea Act of 1773, to be exact. The colonies were tired of the tariffs England was imposing on goods such as tea. This particular tariff would lead to what would later be known as the “Edenton Tea Party,” a courageous act of colonial women that has somehow been swept under the rug of history.
The Edenton Tea Party was not a tea party in the sense that we think of today. On October 25, 1774, a group of 51 brave women known as the Edenton Resolve led by Penelope Barker would sign a declaration addressed to King George to boycott British tea and clothing. The ladies’ declaration letter was published in a Virginia newspaper before eventually making its way to London. The British newspaper published the letter coined the event “the Edenton Tea Party,” The letter was printed with an unflattering cartoon mocking these women. This daring act of defiance by the colonial women shook England to the core, making them the object of British jokes. Although these women were not taken seriously, they would be the catalyst to change American tea consumption. The difference between the Boston Tea Party of 1773 and the Edenton Tea Party was that these women signed their names for all the world to see on a document boycotting England law, which was considered an act of treason punishable by death. In contrast to the Boston Tea Party, where colonial men dressed up as Native Americans to hide their identities.
The Edenton Tea Party, then known as the Edenton Resolve, was held at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth King in the tiny town of Edenton, North Carolina. Mrs. King’s house could not fit the large group of women who assembled to support the colonial cause, so the meeting was held outside on the lawn.
Today visitors can visit the restored home of Mrs. King’s, where a copy of the British cartoon and painting of Mrs. King hangs over the mantle. The historical marker commemorating the brave act of these ladies is a large cast-iron ornate teapot sitting on the firing end of a Revolution-era cannon on the Edenton courthouse lawn.
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