Revolutionary Women of American History

A couple weeks ago (in what now feels like a different universe), some friends and I went on a “Revolutionary Women” themed walking tour in Boston. As opposed to the walking tours that focus on more well-known parts of American history, this tour focused on the (largely invisible) women of the American Revolution and their fight for equality. I found this tour and the women that it featured to be overwhelmingly inspiring. In a time when we could all use some inspiration, I thought I’d share a bit of background on some of the inspirational revolutionary women of American history.

Statue of Mary Dyer at the Massachusetts State House

Mary Dyer (1611-1660) was a colonial American and a Quaker minister. Even in the 1600’s, Quakers allowed women to be ministers, and Dyer wanted to spread her progressive Quaker beliefs to Puritans in Boston. This was seen as heresy at the time, and Dyer was exiled from Boston on more than one occasion (she also returned more than once, undeterred in her mission). Ultimately, Dyer was hung as a witch on the “Great Hanging Elm” in what is now part of Boston Common. (Read more here)

Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) was also a colonial American who advocated for reform in the Puritan community (but unlike Dyer, she practiced as a Puritan). She was also a practicing midwife. Hutchinson’s calls for reform garnered some support from the local community, but was met with opposition from the leading Puritan clergyman. Hutchinson and her family were eventually exiled from Boston and the Puritan community. First they moved to Rhode Island, and then to New Netherland. Unfortunately, due to mounting tensions between Colonists and Native Americans, the Hutchinson family was not considered welcome in New Netherland: the entire family (save for one of Hutchinson’s children) was massacred. Back in Massachusetts, Puritan clergyman openly celebrated Hutchinson’s death. (Read more here)

Dorothy Quincy (1747-1830) was the wife of founding father John Hancock. She is known for witnessing the Battle of Lexington, voluntarily taking on secretarial duties for her husband, and most importantly, not taking bullshit from men. When John Hancock forbade Quincy (his fiancĂ©e at the time) from visiting her father in Boston after the Battle of Lexington, she famously responded: Recollect Mr. Hancock, that I am not under your control yet. I shall go to my father tomorrow. She also gave her first child the middle name “George Washington,” which was most likely an intentional slight to her husband who was constantly overshadowed by the achievements of George Washington. (Read more here or here)

Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895) was the first black woman in the United States to receive a medical degree and become a physician. Crumpler used her medical training to treat women and children in Boston, but later moved to Virginia because she believed her training would be of even more service to women and children who were impacted by the Civil War in the South. Unfortunately, she experienced so much racism in the South that she was unable to effectively practice medicine, and eventually returned to Boston where she continued to treat women and children. (Read more here or here)

Lucy Stone (1818-1893) was an abolitionist and suffragist who was passionate about securing equal voting rights for women. You have probably heard of Stone’s colleague, Susan B. Anthony. However, Stone broke from Anthony by supporting voting rights for black men before women were granted the right to vote. An abolitionist, Stone believed in voting rights for all, and she believed that if women supported suffrage for black men, then the black community would return the support for women’s suffrage. Despite her passionate advocacy, Stone lived her entire life without voting. She registered to vote in one local election (women could vote in some local elections in Massachusetts), but was denied at the polls for refusing to vote under her husband’s surname. (Read more here or here)

These are just a few important women from the walking tour whose stories I found to be particularly inspiring. Sometimes I find myself feeling powerless in my day-to-day life, so learning about these women who advocated for themselves and their beliefs in a time when women were given so much less authority really moved me. The work that the revolutionary women started isn’t complete, but their actions helped get us to where we are today.

Who do you find inspirational? Are there other revolutionary women from history (not just American history) that you would include in a history tour or a post like this?

Boom Town (and the strawberry celebration cake it inspired me to make)

The book: Boom Town by Sam Anderson.

After nearly four weeks, I finally finished reading Boom Town by Sam Anderson. The book is a non-fiction account of the history and culture of Oklahoma City. From the city’s wild founding in 1889, to the dynamic of its professional basketball team (the Oklahoma City Thunder), to the professional and personal lives of famous Oklahomans, Boom Town truly covers it all.

400 pages of historical non-fiction about a medium-big city in an overlooked region of the United States might sound questionable; I was certainly skeptical at first of how interesting this book could actually be. But Boom Town quickly exceeded my expectations of it. I kept asking myself: “is the story of Oklahoma City really this interesting? Or is Sam Anderson just an amazing writer and story-teller?” The answer, I think, is both.

From the beginning of the book, Sam Anderson’s writing is captivating, punchy, and often humorous. Historical non-fiction can be dense, but Anderson finds ways to lighten it, like when he adds this detail about the first night that settlers moved into Oklahoma City: “centipedes swarmed all over the place, wondering what the f*** was going on.”

Anderson also keeps the story engaging by jumping from one sub-story to another. For example: the first chapter is a (surprisingly interesting) overview of Oklahoma City, the second chapter focuses on a (former) player for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and then the third chapter switches back to general information about the city. I appreciated this technique, because it helped break up the dense history of Oklahoma City into more digestible pieces. A few chapters focused on aspects of Oklahoma City that seemed irrelevant to the story at the time they were introduced, but Sam Anderson brilliantly connects all the different aspects of Oklahoma City in the last quarter of the book. Everything is interconnected, even if it isn’t immediately clear how.

My only critiques of Boom Town are the following: 1) Sam Anderson doesn’t use footnotes or endnotes to cite his references, and 2) he writes about his personal impressions of famous Oklahomans as though they are objective characterizations. Specifically, I disliked how Anderson was obsessed with finding flaws and secret “not-niceness” in NBA-player Kevin Durant, yet didn’t address any of the nuances in the character of weatherman Gary England (in my opinion, England seems grouchy and disgruntled).

Overall, Boom Town is a great book. It isn’t a quick read, but I wholeheartedly recommend taking the time to read it. The saga of Oklahoma City will leave you sighing in exasperation, laughing out loud, scratching your head, and – when you read the chapter “9:02” – weeping.

The bake: strawberry celebration cake.

For Boom Town, I baked a strawberry sprinkle cake, which is fitting for the book in a couple of ways. First, strawberry is the official fruit of Oklahoma. Second, and more importantly, a sprinkle cake captures the celebratory boom-or-bust spirit of Oklahoma City that was portrayed throughout Boom Town. (Also, there are good things going on in my personal life right now, so the cake was a nice way to celebrate that.)

To make the strawberry cake, I used this recipe from Beth Cakes, but I baked it in two 9″ round pans instead of the 9×13″ rectangle pan as stated in the recipe. I also added approximately 3 tablespoons of sprinkles into the cake batter. I frosted the cake using my own improvised strawberry cream cheese frosting recipe, sandwiched the two cakes with frosting and fresh strawberries, and decorated the cake with more sprinkles.

The frosted cake. I accidentally started assembling and frosting the cake while it was still on the cooling rack!

My only criticism of the cake is that it didn’t actually taste strongly of strawberries! One possible explanation is that the strawberries I used were underripe, and therefore didn’t add much strawberry flavor to the cake. That being said, the cake still tasted really good! It was buttery and rich, and the fresh strawberries and strawberry cream cheese frosting definitely carried lots of strawberry flavor. Overall, this was a very fun cake to make (and eat and share), especially after not baking for nearly a month!

A generous slice that shows: the sprinkle cake, the strawberry cream cheese filling with fresh strawberries, and frosting and sprinkles on top.