Loyalist Women and the Fight for the Right to Entry

By Kacy Tillman

After traveling over 1,000 miles, I arrived on the front stoop of the loyalist Grace Growden Galloway’s home with my guide, Beth. The tenant who lived in the mansion would not let us in. She had already slammed the door on us once and had opened it only reluctantly after Beth refused to cease knocking. “Go away!” the occupant shouted. “This house is full of dead raccoons. And youhere she pointed a finger at Beth – “always bring those paranormal investigators when you come. We can’t have that. They stir up ghosts!” As the resident moved to close the door a second time, I wedged my foot between the door and the frame. “Do you know about Grace Galloway? She’s fascinating. I want to tell her story,” I pleaded. The tenant then focused on me. She gave a tight smile, crossed her arms, and leaned on the doorframe. “Oh yeah, I know her,” she said, putting her shoulders back to stand up taller; “I was Galloway in our school play.” And with that, she kicked my foot away and slammed her door shut one final time. She didn’t open it again. I never got inside.

BensalemPA_GrowdenMansion
Growden Mansion, Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania

If I believed in ghosts, I would have thought I’d just met Grace Growden Galloway, herself. Galloway was a woman whose loyalist husband, Joseph, fled with their daughter, Betsy, to London during the war.  Galloway refused to flee with her family because she assumed remaining there would protect her house from property confiscation. She was wrong. When men came to evict her, she barricaded herself inside and stood in the dark as they beat on her doors. She would not be moved.[1] It was this image of Galloway standing stock-still, furious, immovable that flashed before me when the tenant shut the door in my face. I had to smile. Galloway would be proud, I thought, that this woman would not go quietly from this house.

Tim Compeau notes in his recent post, “Dishonoring the Loyalists,” that rebels punished loyalists by “stripping away the constituent elements of their enemies’ manhood,” which is true, if you are reading the rhetoric of loyalist men. My archive of loyalist women writers suggests something slightly different. Most loyalist women – Galloway included – emphasized, not the emasculation of the men in their homes, but the penetration and violation of their own domestic spaces. Loyalist women returned often to these images – both of the violated house and the people in it – to frame the rebels, their supporters, and their cause as dishonorable, dangerous, and immoral. In so doing, they highlighted their inability to consent, either to the people who entered their homes or the loyalties they or their families were assumed to hold.

Loyalist women often focused on domestic violation via coerced quartering. The Quaker Elizabeth Drinker, for example, wrote about being pressured into billeting Major John Crammond.[2] Drinker initially refused in the name of pacifism but acquiesced after a home invasion. In one particularly phallic diary entry, Drinker wrote that a drunk officer forced his way into her home and “shook his Sword, which he held in his Hand and seem’d to threaten.” A neighbor chased him away, but he soon returned “with the Sword in his hand.” By then, the women had locked themselves into the parlor, but he beat on the door, “desiring entrance.” When Drinker (like Galloway) would not admit entry, the “enrag’d, drunken Man” stomped “swareing [sic] about the House” – she reminds us a third time – “with a Sword in his hand.” He left the house with a servant girl, whom he “stole . . . over the fence.”[3] The intrusion left Drinker shaken for weeks; one month later, she wrote, “I often feel afraid to go to bed.”[4] So, when Crammond returned to repeat his proposition that Drinker should quarter him, “[r]ather than wait until a soldier was forced on her,” she reluctantly acquiesced.[5]

Other loyalist women focused on the domestic disturbance caused by forced requisitions or stealing. Sarah Logan Fisher, whose husband Tommy was arrested with Drinker’s, wrote that soldiers pushed into her home to see if she had any servants old enough to “take . . . by force.”[6] In a description that blended the threat of both rape and (perhaps sexually transmitted) disease, Fisher described these thieves as “Men of very little Principle, under no Disipline [sic], & so interolerably Dirty that even in the cleanest of their Houses, the stench of their Dirt is great enough to cause an infectious sickness—”.[7] She worried that allowing them into her home would infect it, too.

Almost all of the loyalist manuscripts I have studied emphasize property desecration. When Cornwallis surrendered in 1781, Anna Rawle refused to light a celebratory candle, and the crowd interpreted the house’s darkness as protest.  In retaliation, the people “broke the shutters and the glass of the windows” and entered the house, wreaking havoc. Rawle would not sleep until friends boarded up the broken windows, for “it would not have been safe to have gone to bed,” a passage that implied she feared rape.[8] In Conversing by Signs, Robert Blair St. George explains that crowds have historically stripped homes to metaphorically expose the people inside of them. “Ritual pillaging” allowed the rioters to “dishonor the family lineage through the literal dismantling of [a] visible estate.” The idea was to “lay bare the transgressive qualities of a specific individual by . . . ‘disrobing’ his house.”[9] To violate a house meant to violate its owner, too.

If we take this sample of loyalist women and compare it to the men in Compeau’s study, then the discourse coming from both groups suggests that loyalists were regulated and defined by what was taken from them, rather than what they embraced. Loyalist women specifically emphasized that the threat from all sides was forced entry – the metaphorical and literal violation of the home and the family inside of it. Drinker highlighted a home invasion. Rawle worried about rape. Galloway lamented her property’s confiscation. Fisher described the loss of her husband, privacy, and well-being. And all repeatedly underscored that they resisted these violations but were ultimately denied the privilege of consent. These stories suggest that, even though loyalist women refused (or tried to refuse) to grant access to the spaces and political ideologies they sought to control, external groups — such as legislators, confiscation committees, and crowds — ultimately regulated who had the right to entry.

Kacy Tillman is an Associate Professor of English and Writing at the University of Tampa, where she teaches early American Literature. Her book-in-progress is called Stripped and Script: Loyalist Women Writers of the American Revolution. You can follow her on Twitter @kacytillman or visit her website kacytillman.com.

Title image: The able doctor, or, America swallowing the bitter draught, 1774.

[1] Grace Growden Galloway, 1778, Diaries and Letter Books 1778-1781, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 20.

[2] While many Quakers did not self-identify as loyalists, rebels often suspected them of covert loyalism and so arrested, tortured, and treated them as they did others they categorized as “Tories.”

[3] Elizabeth Drinker, The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker Vol. 1, ed. Elaine Forman Crane (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1991), 258-259.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Wendy Lucas Castro, “‘Being Separated from My Dearest Husband, in this Cruel Manner:’ Elizabeth Drinker and the Seven-Month Exile of Philadelphia Quakers,” Quaker History 100, no. 1 (2011): 46.

[6] Sarah Logan Fisher, “A Diary of Trifling Occurrences,” Vol. 1, [1776], Sarah Logan Fisher Diaries 1776-1795, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fisher’s diary is not consistently paginated or dated.

[7] Fisher, “A Diary,” Vol. 2, 1777, HSP, 15.

[8] Anna Rawle to Rebecca Shoemaker, 27 October [1781], Pemberton Papers, Vol. 70, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

[9] Robert Blair St. George, Conversing by Signs: Poetics of Implication in Colonial New England Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 243.

Further Readings:

I discuss the complexities of defining loyalism for women during the American Revolution in “What is a Female Loyalist?” Common-Place 13, no. 4 (2013). I write about Galloway at length in “Women Left Behind: Female loyalism, coverture, and Grace Growden Galloway’s Empire of Self” in Women’s Narratives and the Formation of Empire, edited by Mary Balkun and Susan Imbarrato, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Elizabeth Evans, Weathering the Storm: Women of the American Revolution. New York: Scribner, 1975.

Esmond Wright ed. Red, White, and True Blue: The Loyalists in the Revolution. New York: AMS Press, 1976.

Judith Van Buskirk, “They Didn’t Join the Band: Disaffected Women in Revolutionary Philadelphia.” Pennsylvania History 62.3 (1995): 306-29.

Philip Gould, Writing the Rebellion: Loyalists and the Literature of Politics in British America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Ruma Chopra, Unnatural Rebellion: Loyalists in New York City During the Revolution. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2011.

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