Friday, February 2, 2018

Sarah & Rachel: The Wives of Paul Revere

~We hear very frequently that women in history often do not get their just due for all they have done in regards to our Nation's country. I hope today's posting will help...even a little... ~

Portraying a famous person in history means learning as much about them as you possibly can. And that's exactly what I've been trying to do since I began interpreting as Paul Revere. Paul Revere does not have the library of biographies that Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or even Abraham Lincoln have, and that can be a plus and a minus.
The plus: since there's not nearly as much information available on Revere in comparison to the most popular of the Founding Fathers, it makes it a little easier for me to do my presenting of the man.
The minus: there's not nearly the information to add to my interpreting. that Sarah...
or is it Rachel with Paul Revere?
So, I have to up my research and dig deeper into the life of the man who helped to spur on the beginning of the Revolutionary War.  Now, one of the things that's been brought up of late is that, besides Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, or even Dolley Madison, not too much is known about the women behind the men of the founding generation. However, please remember that, besides living in a different era,  the people of this time also lived in a very different environment than our own, and therefore, as much as it may frustrate us, they just did not keep too many records of the 'mundane life' of the everyday person, including women (and most men). But let's be thankful that we are now in our day and age, and many of us are digging and scraping to collect whatever biographical bits we can locate to rectify the situation as best as we are able. So rather than be angry, which will serve little to no purpose, let's channel that energy and continue the research on those who we no longer consider to be mundane and move forward from here, and give the more well-rounded lesson on both the men and the women of Revolutionary times.
With that being said, I present to you, as best as I can with what information is available, Sarah and Rachel Revere.
(By the way, unless otherwise noted, whatever you see in italics was taken directly from author Esther Forbes' wonderfully descriptive book Paul Revere & The World He Lived In. She wrote this in such a manner that it truly does live up to its title. Since everyday life in the past is what I am all about, I simply 'lifted' the parts that tended to bring the Revere wives to life, for I felt it best to keep it as the author's own).

Little is known of Sarah Orne, who was born April 2, 1736.  But through the tiny bits of information we have of her, we can only do our best to peer into her life as the young wife of  Paul Revere.   
Let's begin with Esther Forbes giving us a possible glimpse on the dating rituals of Paul and Sarah:
He may have taken this girl (Sarah Orne) rowing on the harbor, and, after a picnic on one of the islands, lain for hours, silent, with his head in her lap, as did other young courting men of the period. Sarah Orne may have first guessed his devotion when she noticed how, during Sabbath Meeting, his eyes sought hers and never the Reverend Ebenezer Pemberton's. And there he would be afterwards, waiting to walk home with her.

Whether Paul & Sarah reacted by way of plenty of frolics during which an old English roughness of manner and courting customs came to the top, or by the more traditional method of exchanging glances in meeting, we may never find out, but it is known that the two were wed on the 4th of August, 1757. 
The marriage of Paul Revere and Sarah Orne
In the family Bible, her husband wrote her name down as 'Sary,' so we can assume this is what he must have called her.
Paul took his young bride home to his mother's house where he assumed responsibility for his mother and younger sisters, a new wife, and the apprenticeship of his younger brother Thomas. Here was his shop and his father's tools. Here his means of livelihood. Young brides were not often asked whether they liked living with their mothers-in-law or not. They were adaptable...and humble (by modern standards). On April 3rd of the following year, Sarah was brought to bed of a daughter (named Deborah after Mrs. Revere), and this first child was followed by seven more over the next fifteen years – seven daughters and a son, Paul Jr., who followed in his father’s silversmithing profession.
The Paul Revere that 'Sary' knew
(Painted by Copley 1768)
In February 1770, Paul Revere and his family were living in a newly purchased home, which proved ideal for Revere’s growing family and his widowed mother Deborah.
Unfortunately, virtually nothing else is found on Sarah Revere, nor her life experiences in the Revere household as her husband played out his role in the Sons of Liberty. We can assume she was not unlike her contemporaries and spent most of her time between caring for her children - teaching her daughters the art of 18th century womanhood and 'playing doctor' when one was ill - and being surrounded by the kitchen walls, continuously making a meal for her family. (Please click the links at the bottom of this posting to learn more details in greater depth of everyday life in colonial times)~

I found this next moment rather poignant only because it helps us to understand another part of the mindset of one who lived in the 18th century as well as to put a bit more meat/flesh on the bones of the 'mythical' Paul Revere and his household.
First we must understand that, for women who lived during the Revolutionary War period, death during childbirth was a real possibility. According to THIS site, about 1200 deaths occurred out of every 100,000 pregnancies/childbirths in the 1700s (compare that to 15 out of 100,000 today):
It was on the fifteenth of April, 1772 and Sarah was in labor, about to give birth to her eighth child. The midwife was called. The younger children sent for a night or two to relatives. The midwife would be in command (no matter who else was in the room with her), ordering hot water or warm flannels, reverting to such primitive beliefs as that a knife under the bed cuts pain, or if the delivery was hard one can speed matters by opening doors and windows, unlocking every chest and cupboard in the house. The only thing that can be said for those old women was the vast amount of experience they had. If it was the mid-wife’s opinion that this child would be the death of its mother, she would not hesitate to say so. The morale of the patient was not much considered and it was thought important that the seriously sick be given as long as possible to make their peace (and to prepare to meet their maker).
The tombstone of Sarah Revere
Courtesy of Find A Grave
Sarah lived through the spring. (Newborn daughter) Isanna was, doubtless, one of those weakly babies, frail and complaining from birth, born without the wish to live. It would be hard to leave the other children motherless. Deborah, the oldest, was only fifteen. Nor would the thought necessarily comfort her that Paul might (like your average widower) quickly find another younger, less worn woman to carry on the burdens she now has to relinquish. Her place at the table, her pew in church, her half of the broad bed would be quickly filled. Another would care for the children she had brought forth in sorrow and travail---as the Bible said.
Sarah Orne Revere died on the third of May, 1773. 
Paul Revere selected for his wife a type of stone at the moment in great fashion. It has the bleak skull and crossbones in high relief.
So little is known about this first wife of Paul Revere, and yet that little to us seems sad.  
I also personally find it unfortunate that there was no likeness of Sarah made.
Folks noticed that Paul Revere was behaving “perfectly naturally,” even though he had been widowed only for a few weeks.
Life must go on. 
(Baby) Isanna lived long enough to give hope she might pull through and to develop a certain type of personality. (But) Sarah would not need to wait long underground before this baby would join her.

The children of Paul and Sarah Revere:
Deborah 1758 - 1797
Paul Jr. 1760 - 1813
Sarah 1763 - 1791
Mary 1764 - 1765
Frances 1766 - 1799
Mary 1768 - 1853
Elizabeth 1770 - 1805
Isannah 1772-1773

Yes, I am certain the thought of leaving her children motherless was painful for Sarah, for I am sure she knew her place at table, her pew in church, her half of the broad bed would quickly be filled.
Rachel Walker Revere
December 27, 1745 - June 26, 1813
Descended through the Revere family to a 
great-granddaughter of the sitter, 
Pauline Revere (Mrs. Nathaniel) Thayer 
And another woman did take Sarah's place...
The family tradition is that one evening that summer Revere was hurrying home from his shop and met Rachel Walker. Rachel was twenty seven at the time, a smart-looking girl with dark hair (as the miniature of her you see on the right that was painted twelve years later shows). She had the sloping Marie Antoinette forehead and oval facial contours so much admired. If it were not for the fact that Rachel looks so much like certain other women of the time who were framed for their beauty, one would be inclined to consider her a plain piece, with her long nose and the slight double chin...
Clever, capable, kindly - but no beauty. However, so fashions change - she may have been considered extremely handsome

In spite of Rachel's charms, the man was anxious to be off, for, he said, he always tried to get home before his children were asleep---but wouldn't she go to his house with him?
Probably it was the attraction of Paul himself that made Rachel go with him, but the story is that it was pity for poor Isanna that made her stay the evening, and soon return for good.
(Rachel) was a kind and much loved woman. There was a certain amount of humor in their relationship - even in their courtship, judging by a rhymed riddle he wrote. One can imagine Paul sitting at the desk in his shop, grabbing an old bill, dipping his quill, and scratching out the following:
Take three fourths of a Paine that makes Traitors confess
With three parts of a place where the Wicked don’t Bless
Join four sevenths of an Exercise which shop-keepers use
And what Bad men do, when they good actions refuse
These four added together with great care and Art
Will point out the Fair One nearest my Heart.
A “pain that makes traitors confess” is the rack, and three-fourths of that word is RAC.
A “place where the wicked don’t bless” is Hell, and three parts of that is HEL.
Shopkeepers were often on their feet all day walking, and four-sevenths of that participle produces WALK.
To refuse to do good is to ERR.
Put those sets of letters together, and you get RACHEL WALKER.
Quite witty, that Mr. Revere!
On the tenth day of October in 1773, Rachel Walker and Paul Revere were married by the Reverend Samuel Mather.
Rachel Walker Revere took immediate responsibility for her new home and her husband's six surviving children, while her husband devoted himself to politics and the assumption of a new role as messenger of the American Revolution, for he did numerous rides before his most famous in April of 1775.
The marriage of these two seems to have been one of those perfect adjustments between two personalities. Like Sarah, Rachel would also have eight children, and she was as good a step-mother as she was a wife...

Keeping in mind that since Rachel was married to Paul Revere, who was involved in what might be called numerous treasonous activities, she had a bit more to worry and think about than the majority of her female contemporaries. But the absence of her husband due to his work for the Revolutionary cause was nothing new for Rachel Revere; during the first eighteen months of their marriage, she already had seen Paul embark on nine separate trips on behalf of the Patriot leadership in Boston to places as far away as New York and Philadelphia, as well as on local trips to Portsmouth and Exeter, New Hampshire. This was all prior to the battle of Concord and Lexington in 1775. In fact, only six days after giving birth to their first son, Joshua, in December of 1774, her husband took the ride to Portsmouth.
Paul Revere was already well known to the British for his insurgent activities, and Rachel, herself being a Daughter of Liberty, was concerned that her husband would be stranded away from home with no means of feeding himself or the horse during what would become his most famous of rides that April night in 1775, so she sent prayers and 125 pounds in British currency, entrusting it to Benjamin Church for delivery to her husband. Church was a member of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts and the surgeon general of George Washington's troops and seemed able to pass through British lines.
Unfortunately for Rachel, Dr. Church also was a spy for the British. So, instead of conveying the letter to Revere, Church handed it over to Gage. History gives no mention of Rachel's cash, and it is presumed that either Gage or Church kept the 125 pounds.

This letter, written ca April 23, 1775, 
was found a century later in files.
Rachel wrote (in her own hand in the note on the right):
"My Dear, by Doctor Church I send a hundred & twenty-five pounds & beg you will take the best care of yourself and not attempt coming into this towne again & if I have an opportunity of coming or sending out anything or any of the Children I shall do it. Pray keep up your spirits & trust your self & us in the hands of a good God who will take care of us. Tis all my Dependence, for vain is the help of man. Aduie my Love from your affectionate R. Revere."
Paul Revere never saw the letter nor received the money.

In this next letter we do get a brief glimpse of Rachel's character at a moment of crisis in their lives, for it shows her to have been busy with the momentous events taking place around her. But she was very anxious and wanted to be of some help to her husband. Torn by the necessity of offering bribes to the servant of a British officer she clearly detested to secure her family's safety in getting a pass out of town for herself and the many children, and by the necessity of leaving her fifteen-year-old stepson, Paul, behind the British lines in Boston, she concerned herself with settling family business affairs and supplying her husband with money and clothing.
It is in this piece of correspondence that shows Rachel was a true Daughter of Liberty in her stern words against her husband for asking for a permit to pass through British lines:
Letter of May 2, 1775
Boston 2d May 5 oclock afternoon 75 [1775]
My Dear Paul
I am exceeding glad to hear you say you are
easy for I thought you where [were] very impatient, but I cannot say I was please'd at hearing you aplyed to Capt Irvin for a pass as I shou'd rather confer 50 obligations on them then recive one from them[.] I am almost sure of one as soon as they are given out[.] I was at mr Scolays yesterday and
his son has been here to day and told me he went to the room and gave mine and Deacon Jeffers name to this father when no other person was admited[.] I hope things will be setledon easier terms soon[.] I have not recived a line from you to day till this moment[.] Why have you alterd your mind in
regard to pauls coming with us? this Capt Irvin says he has not recived any letter and I send by this 2 bottles beer 1 wine for his servant[.] do my dear take care of your self[.] o, I forgot I have not recived but 9£ LM of parkman and that was not enough to pay our friends[.] mr.S [ . . . ] promised to pay you shou,d be glad to know that your coat is not made [ . . . ] John did not incline to do it and I spoke to mr Boit he ingage'd to make it if he Could not get a pass but as he has that in pros-pect he cannot I have got a woman to make Pauls in the house and if you choose I will ask John to cut it and get her to make it[.] She is a very good work woman and works for Doct mount[f]ort Rand
Yours with affection
R Revere

An original example of the type of pass Rachel needed to pass through British lines.

Paul Revere responded the following day:
My Dear Girl,
We can only imagine Paul Revere
writing the words written here...
I receivd your favor yesterday. I am glad you have got yourself ready. If you find that you cannot easily get a pass for the Boat, I would have you get a pass for yourself and children and effects. Send the most valuable first. I mean that you should send Beds enough for yourself and Children, my chest, your trunk, with Books Cloaths &c to the ferry tell the ferryman they are mine.
I will provide a house here where to put them & will be here to receive them, after Beds are come over, come with the Children, except Paul, pray order him by all means to keep at home that he may help bring the things to the ferry, tell him not to come till I send for him.
You must hire somebody to help you. You may get brother Thomas. lett Isaac Clemmens if he is a mind to take care of the shop and maintain himself there, he may, or do as he has a mind, put some sugar in a Raisin cask or some such thing & such necessarys as we shall want.
Tell Betty, My Mother, Mrs Metcalf if they think to stay, as we talked at first, tell them I will supply them with all the cash & other things in my power but if they think to come away, I will do all in my power to provide for them, perhaps before this week is out there will be liberty for Boats to go to Notomy (Revere could mean Menotomy), then we can take them all. If you send the things to the ferry send enough to fill a cart, them that are the most wanted. Give Mrs. Metcalf [torn]in, their part of the money I dont remember the sums, but perhaps they can.
I want some linnen and stockings very much. Tell Paul I expect he’l behave himself well and attend to my business, and not be out of the way. My Kind love to our parents & our Children Brothers & Sisters & all friends.
Revere then added the following to his son:
My Son.
It is now in your power to be serviceable to me, your Mother and yourself. I beg you will keep yourself at home or where your Mother sends you. Dont you come away till I send you word. When you bring anything to the ferry tell them its mine & mark it with my name.
Your loving Father
P. R.

By May 22, according to Jayne Triber’s biography A True Republican, the whole family was in Watertown (except for oldest son Paul, Jr., who stayed behind to look after the shop).
Such times that we think of as being exciting as we look back from our present time with our '20/20 vision,' were not quite so for those who lived through it, who were weary and, just as Rachel, anxious.

The next time we hear about the women in Paul Revere's life is two years after his famous ride.
Partly paraphrased from the book, "A True Republican" by Jayne R. Triber:
Paul Revere had lived with his mother all of his life, and she had helped raise his children, but on May 23, 1777, Deborah Hitchbon Revere passed away at the age of seventy three "after a tedious confinement." Her death must have affected her son deeply, yet Rachel Revere suffered a loss as well. With her husband frequently away from home because of his obligations, she bore the burden of her mother-in-law's final illness and the loss of her help in caring for the children: Joseph Warren, born not quite a month before his grandmother's death; Joshua, who was nearly two-and-a-half; and three girls under the age of twelve. Now more than ever, Rachel would now have to rely on the help of her step-daughters, nineteen-year-old Deborah and fifteen-year-old Sarah. 
Paul Revere did continue his patriotic duties in numerous ways, but he found it "very irksome to be separated from (Rachel), whom I so tenderly love, and from my little lambs..."
This is, for the most part, all we have for Rachel Revere.

The children of Paul and Rachel Revere:
Joshua 1774 - 1801
John 1776 (b & d)
Joseph Warren 1777 - 1868
Lucy 1780 (b & d)
Harriet 1783 - 1860
John 1784 - 1786
Maria 1785 - 1847
John 1787 - 1847
Portrait of Paul Revere 1800
by Charles Balthazar Julien Fevret de Saint-Memin
(Written on frame: Portrait of Paul Revere. 
CBJ Saint Memin, 1770-1852)
I believe it is appropriate at this point to show two more likenesses we have of Paul Revere and one more of Rachel. There are simply no more images of either to be had.
To the left we see one of Revere from the turn of the 19th century, and then below we find Rachel and Paul late in life. An interesting fact not well-known about Paul Revere is that, "As the century advance(d), small boys begin to appear---all eyes, all ears, they watch 'old Mr. Revere' in church, on the street, at his foundry. Some sixty or seventy years later, when asked, they remember him well. Rowland Ellis remembers (Paul Revere) as a 'thick-set, round faced not very tall person who always wore small clothes.' The Ellis family pew in the 'New Brick Church' was directly behind that of Revere, and there Mr. Ellis says, "I used to see him as regularly as the Sabbath came."
The oddity of small clothes alone would be remembered by a small boy. The old elegance of knee-breeches, ruffled shirts, long stockings, and cocked hats had passed out of fashion years before. Others besides Paul Revere (also) clung to their picturesque costume of their youth. There were a number of these 'last leaves' about Boston. It may have been a sin for small boys 'to sit and grin...but the old three-cornered hat, and the breeches and all that, are so queer.'

Yes, Paul & Rachel Revere and their generation were becoming the grandparents of the next. 
Son Joseph Warren Revere paid the artist Gilbert Stuart $100 for the portraits 
of his parents on June 1, 1813. Rachel Revere died just a few weeks later, 
on June 26, but Paul Revere lived nearly five more years.
But it is in these two paintings that the Revere's 
"look a comfortable and well-wedded old couple." 
Rachel Revere died in Boston of a "bilious colic" in 1813, at age sixty-eight. Paul Revere died five years later at age eighty-three. They lie together in the Granary Burying Ground in Boston.
As deep as I could research, this was all I could find in my books on the revering wives of Paul. Most internet biographies of Sarah and Rachel tended to embellish, far more than necessary, their husband's most famous ride, but little else was set aside for the two wives. 
And it was supposed to be their biographies!
I did my best to keep this post centered on the ladies, though I did include some of Paul's information for historical purposes.

Though I could not find much more than what I presented here of Sarah and Rachel, we can at least learn what their lives may have been like, which would add more flesh to the bones of not only these two ladies, but to their generation - both men and women - as a whole. To do this I highly recommend you checking out my posting on life during Colonial times, for I give a general overview of everyday life of their time, and it is loaded with current photographs of actual period homes as well as colonial reenactors: click HERE if you would like to see the post. Also, to learn more on what Sarah and Rachel may have worn, please click HERE for a wonderful and basic overview of women's clothing of the period.
To learn of a more detailed depiction on a woman's role in the kitchen, click HERE
And then to read my posting of Paul Revere's famous ride, click HERE

Some of my information for today's post came directly from THIS site, THIS site, THIS site, and THIS site.
And besides Esther Forbes' wonderful book  Paul Revere & The World He Lived In and the excellent Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fisher, I also gleaned information from another recently discovered by me book: A True Republican: The Life of Paul Revere by Jayne E. Triber.

Thank you for stopping by - - until next time, see you in time.

~   ~   ~


Kat said...

Hi Ken, thank you for your hard work on this blog. I just wanted you to know that I am still here and still reading even though I rarely comment. I also have a copy of Ester Forbes Paul Revere and the World He Lived In although it is still unread. It’s almost to the top of my tbr pile so I will be getting to it soon. I also want to thank you for sharing your love for our collective American history with all of us. I know it’s very time consuming writing it all out here so just know that you are greatly appreciated. Do you have an Pintrest board or twitter account regarding your re-enacting?

Historical Ken said...

Hey Kat!
It has been a while!
Glad you are still reading my posts - - -
No I don't have a pintrest board or a twitter...facebook is pretty much it for me as far as social networking goes.
I so very much appreciate you writing - - thanks!

Zaa said...

Fabulous research ... I absolutely love historical reviews..It was such an enjoyable read. Thank You.