Challenge Words for Women of the American Revolution:
Lost Voices of America’s First Generation
Chapter One: The 18th-Century Woman
Coverture (Laws of): Rooted in the French word covert, which means to cover, the 18th century English laws of Coverture meant that women were legally “covered” by the protection of their husbands or fathers. In reality, this law sought to separate these ladies from their personal fortunes and give those treasures to the men in who were “in charge” of the family.
Landed Gentry: Those of high birth or social standing – the aristocracy, but just below nobility – who owned and held their fortunes in vast amounts of land.
Beau: Though sometimes used to describe men who were greatly concerned with their appearance (also known as dandies or fops). In this case, however, it refers to a man who is a woman’s sweetheart or love interest, and it wasn’t uncommon for the lady to have had more than just one beau!
Matrilineal Kinship: Determining a person’s heritage through the line of the mother rather than the father.
Prominent: Prominent means to stand out. In this case, these men stood out in East Florida society because they were wealthy, well known, and politically powerful.
Commodities: An exchangeable unit of economic wealth; has trade value.
Cottage industry: Industries where employees work out of the home and typically use their own equipment. It was during this time in history, when many people lived in actual cottages, that this term became commonly used.
Post-natal: Anything that exists or takes place after giving birth. In this case, it’s what must take place to care for newborn infants.
Assert: To step forward; stand up, take part, be seen as a leader.
Deprived: To lack the necessities of life, such as adequate food and shelter. In many cases, war deprived a society of able-bodied men; therefore, women often had opportunities during these times to step beyond their traditional roles.
Daunting: Causing fear or discouragement; intimidating.
Hapless: Unfortunate; unlucky.
Sachem: In many Native American cultures a Sachem is a leader or headman, perhaps even a holy man, who is greatly respected as a wise and noble person by others.
Trussed: In this case, to tie or bind another’s hands and/or legs in order to secure them as a prisoner.
Inflation: To increase; in this case it refers to a persistent, substantial rise in prices due to the decreasing value of money.
Creole: The word creole is used in many ways to describe many things, including food, language, culture, and heritage. Its original meaning was first used by the Spanish to refer to people of European ancestry who were born in the Americas. It then adapted in meaning to refer to someone who had one parent of European heritage and the other of either Native American or African descent. By the time of the American Revolution it simply referred to anyone who was of mixed-race origins.
Refuse: (REF-use) In American usage, this word means to reject or turn away. The British, however, have long used it to also mean trash, unsanitary waste, or rubbish – something that has been refused by society.
Nuances: Subtle or very slight distinctions. In this case, the small, simple things that could give away a spy’s real identity.
Emotional Stamina: To have enough mental toughness to keep one’s emotions under control in extreme circumstances.
Clandestine: Something done in extreme secrecy – usually a reference to the work and trade of spies.
Elite: In this case, people who were very wealthy, often born into the best social circumstances, and were politically powerful.
Artillery: The science of firing large explosive shells is known as artillery. Soldiers who were assigned to fire rockets, missiles, and cannons were called artillerymen.
Clientele: A group or body of customers who might be considered “regulars” or faithful to a business.
Compartmentalize: To separate or divide into categories or compartments. In this case, it refers to the idea that the events of the American Revolution have been divided into categories based upon time and geography.
Scalped: To remove a sizable portion of the skin on someone’s skull so that their hair comes off still attached to the skin.
Rigors: In this case, the harsh conditions associated with living off of the land and fighting brutal battles – often in hand-to-hand combat.
Sanctity: Holy, pure, sacred; in this case, it is an over-emphasizing of how devoted many Loyalists were to the ideals of having a king to be dependent upon. To them, the thought of independence was so crazy that it was basically unholy!
Staunch: Firm or steadfast in principle, loyalty, and dependability.
Consolation: In this case, it refers to a comfort. In sports we often hear about teams playing in a “consolation game.” It’s a game to determine which team won third place, which is meant to be consoling (comforting) for the two teams that missed out on playing for the championship.
Paris Peace Delegations: A delegate is a person who officially represents others – in this case an entire nation. The people who signed the 1783 Treaty of Paris were delegates representing several nations and empires. The act of delegates from opposing sides meeting together is often referred to as a delegation or, especially if they are carried out over a lengthy period of time, the delegations.
Salvaged: Having rescued and retrieved a ship and/or its cargo.
Derelict: Abandoned, left, or deserted to fall into ruins.
Domain: Most often domain refers to property ownership and possession – even intellectual property – by a family or individual. In this case, it is the concept that women were “allowed” to rule over the inner workings of the home primarily because the men had no knowledge, nor a desire to learn of such matters.
Middle Passage: (See side bar “Middle Passage” on page 59)
Parlor: A parlor was a room in larger homes, typically off the entrance, used for receiving guests and entertaining. Feats of magic (“parlor tricks”) and social games (“parlor games”) became quite popular during this era. Phillis Wheatley often found herself in the parlor performing for her owners’ guests.
Fermented: When we see forms of the word ferment we think of the aging process involved in making wine and other spirits of that nature. To ferment, however, actually means to agitate, create unrest; stir things up, to cause a commotion. When making alcohol or, in this case blue dye from indigo, the agitating process is increased by the addition of live bacteria that creates the alteration process that is critical when transforming these plants into blue dye.
Pre-ordained: To have been determined, decreed, or appointed beforehand.