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Virtual Lecture: Loyalist Women in 18th Century Newport

January 20, 2022 @ 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm

The Newport Historical Society is pleased to host MaryKate Smolenski for a free virtual lecture, Loyalist Women in 18th Century Newport, on Thursday January 20, 2022 at 5:30pm, on Zoom. Advance registration required: email esulock@newporthistory.org.

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.

MaryKate Smolenski is a Research Fellow at the Preservation Society of Newport County. She earned her MA in History and Museum Studies from Tufts University and studies the British Atlantic World with a particular interest in female Loyalists. In the past, she has worked with the GWU Museum and the Textile Museum, the Cambridge Historical Society, and the Newport Historical Society. In 2020, she co-founded the Coalition of Master’s Scholars on Material Culture (CMSMC), an online platform that shares the work of emerging material culture scholars.


January 20, 2022
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
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Newport Historical Society