Political demonstrations held by women tend to be pretty powerful. But before the Women’s March on Washington and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, one woman organized an impacting political demonstration on her own.
Penelope Barker was an activist best known for organizing the Edenton Tea Party in 1774.
Penelope was born in Edenton, North Carolina, in 1728. Her father was a farmer, and her mother was the daughter of a wealthy politician.
Penelope’s father and sister died when she was young, so she spent many of her teenage years helping to raise her children. Then, just before turning 17, Penelope married her sister’s widow in 1745.
Unfortunately, she was pregnant with their second child when he passed away and was left to raise four children alone.
Penelope remarried in 1751 to a wealthy planter named John Craven. He died four years later, and she inherited his large fortune, making her one of the richest women in North Carolina.
In 1757, Penelope married an attorney named Thomas Barker. They had three children with him, but sadly, they all passed away before their first birthdays. In 1761, Thomas was sent to England to serve as an agent of the North Carolina colony.
Penelope was once again left alone to raise her children, and Thomas wasn’t able to return home until seventeen years later due to the American Revolution.
During the build-up to the American Revolution, patriot women like Penelope were encouraged to support the rebellion against the British and their taxation by boycotting imported British products like tea and cloth.
Inspired by the Boston Tea Party and wanting to participate in the rebellion, Penelope spent the early fall of 1774 knocking on the doors of over 50 households and inviting women to a special tea party at the home of Elizabeth King.