Imagine packing up all of your belongings, a young child in tow, and boarding a ship to leave your hometown- uncertain if you would ever return. This was the experience of some female Loyalists in Revolutionary-era Newport who left the town due to their association with Loyalism, either due to their own beliefs or their male relatives’ affiliations. Loyalist women were often in a precarious situation; they could not vote, fight, or legislate but they still experienced the consequences of Loyalism. While often considered the “enemies of freedom” in American history, Loyalists were actually a diverse group who chose the British side of the conflict for numerous reasons and made up between 20-33% of the population.
MaryKate Smolenski’s lecture will draw on primary source research from her time as a Buchanan Burnham fellow at the Newport Historical Society in 2019. From archival research, she has documented over seventy women and girls who could be considered Loyalists in Newport. She will focus on the experiences of four women with deep ties to Newport whose purported Loyalism during the Revolutionary War had a profound effect on the rest of their lives. The talk will focus on lived experiences and explore the aftermath of Loyalism through the examples of four women: Penelope Honyman Bisset, Elizabeth Malbone Breese, Sarah Brenton Wanton Atherton, and Jemima Bull. Each woman’s path differed, reflecting the variety of the female Loyalist experience in Newport.