Mercy Otis Warren: Playwright of the Revolution

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Revolutionary War

Mercy Otis Warren was one of the voices of the American Revolution, although not a very loud or well-known one. She was not a firebrand, as was Samuel Adams. She preferred to make her case with her pen. She was a poet whose friends included the famous John and Abigail Adams.

Mercy Otis was born on September 25, 1728, in Barnstable, Mass. She lived there until she was 26, moving to Plymouth to live with the man she married, James Warren. James was involved in the Revolution and in Massachusetts politics. Many important meetings took place at his house, and Mercy became involved as well, listening to secret plans and finding reasons to desire independence from Great Britain. (She also had a brother, James Otis, who was heavily involved in the independence movement.)

One of her first writings was "Massachusetts Song of Liberty," which became a very popular song in the 13 Colonies. She wrote both poems and plays, but it is for her plays that he is best remembered. Her first published play, The Adulateur, was published anonymously and was basically a propaganda piece, endorsing the call for independence. She also published The Defeat and The Group, plays on a similar subject. Each of these plays was a thinly veiled attack on a public official, all British.

When the war was finished, Mercy continued to write, this time under her own name. She published a book of poetry in 1790 (Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous) and wrote a book, History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution, a three-parter that was published in 1805.

In her later years, she became a vocal opponent of the disparity between educational opportunities for men and for women. The mother of five, she had been forced by society to stay at home and rear her children, instead of being involved in politics, like her husband and brother were. Her plays and poems were the closest she ever came to being part of "the outside world."

She died on October 19, 1814, in Plymouth, Mass. She is famous to this day because of what she wrote.

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