Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Advisor

Sharon Hartman Strom


The intent of this thesis is to explore connections between gender relations and the construction of a local discourse by which residents of late colonial Newport, Rhode Island, interpreted the coming American Revolution. Historians in recent years have documented a relationship between gender and the rhetoric of the Revolution and separately have linked the development of commercial economies to a desire for independence in the colonies. However, relatively unexplored are the possible connections between the nature of gender relations within the emergent economies and the appeal for independence.

The emergence of an urban economy in Newport dominated by commerce and consumerism wrought tremendous change in the way men and women interacted with each other in the city. Particularly affected was the traditional paragon of colonial gender relations - matrimony. This development proved disconcerting to many residents, who found remedy in the ideas of the Revolution.

Primary source materials, consisting of court records and newspaper publications, illustrate the intersections of gender and economics that gave the Revolution meaning for Newporters. Coupled with the work of other historians, this study proposes that the process was not unique to Newport, but rather characteristic of colonial port cities in that era of great change. As such, the scope of this thesis goes beyond mere local history. Indeed, it has as much to suggest about colonial America in general as it does about colonial Newport in particular.



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