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Words in Context - Colonial Research Associates Words in Context - Colonial Research Associates

Words in Context

Words-in-Context for Women of the American Revolution:

Lost Voices of America’s First Generation


Chapter One: The 18th-Century Woman

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Women’s Liberation Movements: In the 1960s and 1970s, women in several nations formed active movements, or causes, that sought rapid change in how their societies treated women. Often referred to as Libbers, these women staged protests of every kind in order to bring public attention to the inequality that women faced every day.

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Stations in Society: In this case, stations in society is a reference to someone’s rank, office, position, or standing in society.

Shackled: To be bound by a device to limit, reduce, or restrict a person’s freedom. In this case, that device was a bad law designed to restrict the rights of women.

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Baubles: A showy, typically cheap trinket of sorts. In this case, it is a sarcastic reference to jewelry and other collectables.

Sanctions: Most often this word is used to discuss a negative action for an illegal, unapproved, or unwanted action. In this case, however, it actually means authoritative permission or approval; something that serves to support an action or condition.

Conducted: In this case, Washington was offering to have someone of proper authority oversee the legal and religious aspects of a wedding ceremony.

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Strangled: To stifle, suppress, prevent, or inhibit – in this case, the growth or development of the status of women.

Tanned: To convert a raw deer hide into leather through a process called tanning, so named for the use of tanbark – most often the bark of oak or hemlock trees – in the procedure.

Stature: Stature can refer to the physical height of an individual, animal, or anything else. In this case it refers to the “height” of a person’s standing or place within her society; a level of achievement.

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Heralded: As used on page 6, it means announced or proclaimed; as used on page 63, it means uplifted, exalted, or highly acclaimed.



Chapter 2:

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Patterns of Industry: As used by Martha Washington, these women were to be examples for other women to follow. They were to be industrious, actively helping the cause of independence, not just talking about it while others made the sacrifice.

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Tar-and-feathering: In this time in history it was not uncommon for mobs to tie up those that they wanted to “teach a lesson” and pour large amounts of hot tar over their victims heads and shoulders until it ran down their entire bodies. The victim would then be covered in feathers that would stick to the tar. If the victim lived, they were badly scarred and often had to wait months before they could finally remove all of the tar without tearing at their healing wounds.

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Campaign: Multiple military offensives typically coordinated within a specific geographic region and with a common goal.


Chapter Three:

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Grit: In this case, to have a firmness of character that is tougher, or at least more resolved, than the surrounding circumstances.

Outfit: A group or association considered to be an organized unit, such as in this case a military company or outfit.

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Dispatches: To dispatch something is to send it away, with speed, to a specific destination. During the American Revolution the items carried were most often messages written on paper and referred to as dispatches.

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English Descent: To be from a particular ancestry, lineage, or heritage. In this case, the heritage was English.

War of Attrition: To wage war, not by winning victories, but by simply not losing – to inflict as much damage on the enemy to affect their will to continue fighting. Wars of attrition are often fought by weaker forces when facing much stronger armies.

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Crown: When we see the word crown we think of a physical object sitting on the heads of royalty – a symbol of their power. In this case, it is a reference to the monarchy and royal government of Great Britain as a whole.

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Guilt-by-Association: To be judged by others as equally responsible for an attitude, conduct, or the promotion of a hurtful philosophy by others simply because you are associated with them, even casually.

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Gondolas: The word gondola normally brings to mind a beautifully adorned, slender boat in the canals of Venice, Italy. In this case it refers to a larger, flat-bottom boat with low sides for carrying heavy cargo. Today, open railroad cars with low sides are called gondolas.


Chapter Four:

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Lame: In this case, difficult or impossible to walk due to a crippling injury.

Stagnant: When there’s no movement. In this case, it’s a reference to foul-smelling, swampy areas where the water has no movement and is filled with disease-carrying mosquitoes and deadly to drink.

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Smithy: Nick-name often given to a blacksmith.

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Discharge: In this case, to be relieved of an obligation to service in the military.

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Molested: To be harassed, annoyed, or even attacked – in this case sexually.

Strides: in this case, to take make efforts to hide the fact that they were women.

Deserted (to desert): Spelled exactly like the regions of earth covered in sand for hundreds of miles, in this context the word means to leave or run away without official permission and with no intention of returning.


Chapter Five:

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Stance: To take an emotional or mental position with respect to something, in this case the cause of independence.

Quartered: Provided housing or shelter; living quarters.

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Killing two birds with one stone: An old expression that means to accomplish two things with one act.

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Stroke an Officer’s Ego: To flatter or promote feelings of approval.

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Red-handed: To be caught with something that you aren’t supposed to have, or claim not to have, in your possession.


Chapter Six:

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Edict: An official order issued, in this case, by a high-ranking officer in the field. Edicts were virtually unbreakable unless done so by an official of higher rank. Royal edicts, therefore, became law because no person or office outranked royalty. In Great Britain royal edicts were typically decreed only after Parliament had first approved of a particular law – the process of allowing a king and/or queen to have “final approval” was out of respect for ancient traditions.

Fence-Straddler: During the American Revolution many could not decide which side of the rebellion to take. Rather than committing to one side or the other, they hoped to “straddle the fence” until a clear winner might be determined. In this case, what the British did by encouraging slave insurrection not only angered those already in rebellion, but pushed many who had yet to make up their minds to join the revolt.

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Gripping: To have an emotional or intense hold over a person, group of people, or in this case, an entire city.

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Safe Havens: Any place offering shelter and safety. Sailors refer to harbors and ports as havens during storms. Another word often used in this context is an Asylum. But havens aren’t always peaceful places. In the old Wild West, havens could also refer to a place where outlaws were safe from the law.

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Anonymity: A state of being anonymous, which typically refers to someone or something that desires to remain unknown for whatever reason (making a donation or giving the police a “tip” on a crime). In the case of the Gullah/Geechee culture, since these people can’t become invisible, their state of anonymity comes from their efforts to keep from drawing unnecessary attention to themselves.

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Brewing: The process of making beverages (coffee, tea, beer, etc.) by boiling, steeping, soaking, and/or cooking the required ingredients in water. But it also means to bring ideas and conceptions together in order to “brew” a plot or scheme. Anger can be brought to a boil as easily as any liquid.


Chapter Seven:

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Slanted: To have views that are influenced by bias and/or concerns for issues that are important to them.

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Learned (LEARN-ed): To be knowledgeable; to have been taught; to have learned things.

Status quo: Latin for an existing state or condition.

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Forged: To form or make, especially by a concentrated effort.

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Facets: Typically, facets refer to the surfaces of a cut gemstone – which has many surfaces. In this case, it refers to the many varieties of routes and items of trade that made up the Middle Passage.

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Rampaged: Excessively violent action, as when a bull elephant becomes angered and goes berserk. War is arguably the most savage human behavior known; therefore, when an army is said to be on a rampage it is the description of a military force that has lost its discipline in the course of action.

Staged: To be set up in a manner that establishes a preferred scene or circumstance.

Dominions: Dominion can be used in two ways: 1) to rule or control by a single authority, from the root word domination – to have dominion over someone or something; 2) as it is used in the text, lands or territories, usually of considerable size, that are ruled or controlled, from the root word domain. Same word, but variated root words.