MHS Calendar of Events

Exhibition

Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country

Massachusetts Women in WWI. 12 June 2014 to 24 January 2015

Details
Early American History Seminar Marital Infidelity and Espionage in the Siege of Boston 7 February 2012.Tuesday, 5:15PM - 7:15PM Seminars are free and open to the public; RSVP required.
Subscribe to received advance copies of the seminar papers.
J. L. Bell, Boston 1775 Comment: Robert Allison, Suffolk University

This paper will examine patterns in the popular linkage between marital and political infidelities over a range of espionage cases from the start of the Revolutionary War. Drawing on new findings about such spies as Dr. Benjamin Church, Benjamin Thompson, and the Rev. John Carnes, it will address the topic from multiple perspectives, including actual cases, the use of marital disloyalty as a metaphor for political disloyalty, and how stories of family splits were hidden, preserved, or retold. Each side of the political conflict tried to portray the other's leaders, up to and including Thomas Gage and George Washington, as unfaithful husbands. Betrayal in the home, such reports suggested, led to betrayal of the public. Some men involved in espionage did indeed make a habit of extramarital affairs, but others appear to have undertaken their risky ventures to support their wives and children. Both at the time and in later generations, Americans have been selective about which family splits they recorded, and thus which side's agents appeared most treacherous.

close

Back to top