On October 25, 1774, one of the first organized political actions by American women occurred in the town of Edenton, North Carolina, when fifty-one ladies gathered at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth King and signed a proclamation protesting the British tax on tea. Led by Penelope Barker, the patriots vowed to support resolves by the Provincial Deputies of North Carolina to boycott “the pernicious custom of drinking tea” and avoid British-made cloth until the tax was repealed.
The ladies of Edenton signed a resolution declaring that “we cannot be indifferent on any occasion that appears nearly to affect the peace and happiness of our country.” The boycott was, they declared, “a duty that we owe, not only to our near and dear connections . . . but to ourselves.”
It was a bold move in a time when it was considered unladylike for women to get involved in political matters. Unlike the participants of the famous Boston Tea Party, the Edenton women did not disguise themselves in costumes, but openly signed their names to their declaration “as a witness of our fixed intention and solemn determination.”
At first the British sneered at the Edenton Tea Party. One Englishman wrote sarcastically, “The only security on our side . . . is the probability that there are but few places in America which possess so much female artillery as Edenton.” They soon discovered otherwise.