Massachusetts Historical Society

The letters exchanged between Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814) and Hannah Winthrop (baptized 1727-1790) provide a remarkable window into the daily lives of families living through the challenges of revolution and nation building. Teachers, students, and history enthusiasts are urged to explore history through the eyes and pens of those who participated in the extraordinary events of the period. These intimate letters (written between 1752 and 1789) offer readers an opportunity to connect with the past by imagining themselves in the narrative. The correspondence between Warren and Winthrop reveals the important roles that women played in the revolutionary era. The letters from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren are original manuscripts, however Warren's letters to Winthrop are not. Warren's are from a letterbook (a manuscript volume containing handwritten copies of outgoing letters), compiled by unidentified transcribers.

Biographical Sketches

Mercy Otis Warren Hannah Winthrop

1752

Letter from Hannah Tollman (later Hannah Winthrop) to Mercy Otis Warren, 28 February 1752
Letter from Hannah Winthrop sharing her sadness about the death of her father from smallpox and declining an invitation from Mercy's parents to stay with them.

1768

Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 6 October 1768
Letter from Hannah Winthrop thanking Mercy for renewing their friendship by writing and sharing news of the recent and untimely death of their acquaintance, Mrs. Waldo.

1769

Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 29 April 1769
Letter from Hannah Winthrop apologizing for not writing sooner on account of her husband John's long illness, sharing her sadness about the death of her good friend Sophonia, and inviting Mercy and her husband, James, to visit.
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 6 September 1769
Letter from Hannah Winthrop asking Warren to visit and calling her a "sincere & Virtuous Friend."

1771

Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 5 November 1771
Letter from Hannah Winthrop sharing her gratitude for the Warrens' recent hospitality in Plymouth and sharing the news of the death of her longtime friend, Mrs. Belcher.
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren to Hannah Winthrop (letterbook copy), [after 5 November 1771], "I know my friend will be glad..."
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren offering sympathy for Dr. Winthrop's recent illness and expressing concern about who might be appointed the next president of Harvard.

1772

Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 1 January 1772
Letter from Hannah Winthrop sending "Sympathy with you under your late trouble" and hoping her letter can provide "any Alleviation."
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 22 June 1772
Letter from Hannah Winthrop conveying her gratitude for their friendship, her anxieties during her husband John's illness, and her displeasure when politics are "blinded by ambition & love of domination."
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 14 August 1772
Letter from Hannah Winthrop sharing her thoughts on "the Little amusements of Life," a recent visit with Mercy's son, and her own "Widohood" during her husband's "pursuit of health upon the water with Mr. Hancock."

1773

Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 4 January 1773
Letter from Hannah Winthrop sharing her thoughts on current relations between "this once happy Country" [America] and "this Royal Vengance" [England].
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren to Hannah Winthrop (letterbook copy), February 1773
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren discussing poetry and writing, the growing tension in Massachusetts, and encouraging the Winthrops to visit once spring arrives.
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren to Hannah Winthrop (letterbook copy), April 1773
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren chastising her friend for worrying excessively over illnesses and hoping that by the time she reads the letter that she will be in possession of a more positive outlook. 
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 12 April 1773
Letter from Hannah Winthrop telling of her husband's long illness over the winter and her hopes that he would be able to attend the upcoming "important election" as a member of the Governor's Council.
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren to Hannah Winthrop (letterbook copy), July 1773
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren rejoicing in "the calm delights of solitude" away from the city of Boston at her Clifford Farm house near Plymouth.
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 10 November 1773
Letter from Hannah Winthrop criticizing "the India companys sending their Tea to the Colonies for the security of the unconstitutional Revenu."

1774

Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 1 January 1774
Letter from Hannah Winthrop apologizing that she has "no news of a domestick kind to tell you" but sharing her patriotic fervor and insisting that "even American daughters are Politicians Patriots and will aid the good work with their Female Efforts."
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren to Hannah Winthrop (letterbook copy), [after 1 January 1774], "When I took up my pen, I determined to leave..."
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren sharing her determination "to leave the field of politicks to those whose proper busines it is to speculate and to act at this important crisis". However, as a mother and a wife, she was unable to do so. A stirring letter.
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren to Hannah Winthrop (letterbook copy), 30 January 1774
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren expressing concern over Winthrop's husband's declining health, the political atmosphere of the Congress, and wishing the Winthrops a happy new year.
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren to John Winthrop and Hannah Winthrop (letterbook copy), [after 11 February 1774], "Will my worthy friends suffer me ..." ...
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren expressing her sympathies for a recent loss and offering "a mournful sigh for the condition of humanity."
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 1 April 1774
Letter from Hannah Winthrop applauding Mr. Winthrop's trip to Boston to "deliver his Country from that Iron Yoke of slavery" and sharing the news that Colonel [John] Hancock "is extremely ill with the Gout."
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren to Hannah Winthrop (letterbook copy), August 1774
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren discussing the politics of the formation of a "new Council."
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 27 September 1774
Letter from Hannah Winthrop describing an increase in "Loads of english goods...the fortifying of Boston neck, [and] the huge canon now mounted there," which she fears are all preparations for war with England. She also describes in great detail the lavish wedding of the Prince of Prussia to illustrate the "empty pagentry" of rapacious rulers.
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 27 October 1774
Letter from Hannah Winthrop imploring for "divine Illumination" during the "present Crisis," and asserting her hope that "That Infinite unceasing power will yet be for us & in his own time extricate us out of our difficulties."

1775

Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 3 January 1775
Letter from Hannah Winthrop expressing her hope that James Warren and Congress will persevere in the cause of liberty and her fear of the consequences if they fail. Winthrop also praises the other colonies for sending supplies to Boston, which is suffering under the Boston Port Bill and other Acts of Parliament.
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren to Hannah Winthrop (letterbook copy), February 1775
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren supporting John Winthrop's decision to continue teaching mathematics at Harvard and not join the Congress, sharing  that "we have much to hope from a meeting of the Delegates from all the Colonies" concerning "the fate of both Great Britain and America."
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 15 April 1775
Letter from Hannah Winthrop sharing "the Encomiums the worthy Mr Adams has given" regarding Mr. and Mrs. Warren and hoping that she will soon be able to move back to Cambridge from Concord, "Provided Boston is securd from a second invasion".
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, circa May 1775
Letter from Hannah Winthrop describing their harrowing journey to Andover, "alternately walking & riding, the roads filld with frighted women & children some in carts with their tallest furniture."
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren to Hannah Winthrop (letterbook copy), 3 June 1775
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren inquiring whether Hannah has settled into her new home (her old home "now occupied by the boisterous sons of Mars") and noting that justice, "which could not be obtained by patience, self denial, petitions, and remonstrances" is "now demanded at the point of the bayonet."
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 23 June [1775]
Letter from Hannah Winthrop sharing her gratitude that they have both married men who are interested in "not only pursuing the happiness of Mankind in general, but making happy Domestic life" and who "delight in forming our Ideas & in communicating Intellectual Pleasure."
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 17 August 1775
Letter from Hannah Winthrop describing her dismay that General Gage had forced Boston residents to leave their homes without allowing them to take any possessions, and although he promised that Boston "should be the last place that would suffer harm" in return for protecting the troops on their return from Concord, instead "[lay] a whole town in ashes."
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 30 September 1775
Letter from Hannah Winthrop thanking her and her husband for finding them a place to live in Concord while Mr. Winthrop recovered from an illness. She shares her concerns over the state of affairs between England and the colonies and asks "How long shall these Tyrants reign & the poor oppressd inhabitants of America groan under the Iron Yoke?"
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 5 November 1775
Letter from Hannah Winthrop describing the "humble" house in Concord to which she and her husband John Winthrop recently moved to escape from the escalating conflict and dangers in Cambridge.
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 13 December 1775
Letter from Hannah Winthrop commiserating on the absence of their husbands and encouraging Mercy that "This is part of the imperfection of the present System & we must endeavor a peacefull acquiescence.".

1776

Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 24 January 1776
Letter from Hannah Winthrop describing the pleasure she derives from their correspondence, and expressing her hopes that "many… Britannia Sons who wish well to America"  will have their voices heard  "under the cruel restrictions of despotism," referring to reports in recently-arrived London newspapers of Parliamentary debates.
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 2 April 1776
Letter from Hannah Winthrop after the Seige of Boston has concluded rejoicing in spring and the expulsion of the British from Boston. Winthrop sings the praises of George Washington and discusses Thomas Paine's recently published pamphlet, Common Sense.
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 1 May 1776
Letter from Hannah Winthrop sent in gratitude for a recent meeting. 
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 8 July 1776
Letter from Hannah Winthrop about visiting Boston for the first time since the Seige.
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, circa August 1776
Letter from Hannah Winthrop discussing the current situation as the newly-independent country organizes. 

1777

Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 14 January 1777
Letter from Hannah Winthrop discussing her "brighter View" in the New Year, astronomy, and the conditions after the Revolution.
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren to Hannah Winthrop (letterbook copy), 4 August 1777
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren inquiring after the health of her friends, wondering whether Mr. Winthrop is still teaching and noting that "every social enjoyment is interrupted and our ideas dwell much upon scenes of devastation...and blood."
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 7 August 1777
Letter from Hannah Winthrop eloquently stating that, "The noise of War can never drown the soft alluring Voice of Friendship", and discussing general news, the restored health of her husband, and an invitation to visit in Plymouth. 
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 22 October 1777
Letter from Hannah Winthrop apologizing for an aborted visit on account of John Winthrop's having a cold and the weather not cooperating. Political matters are also addressed including commentary on the "Great General Washington!" and his "amazing" toils. 
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 11 November 1777
Letter from Hannah Winthrop discussing being "delugd with British & Hessians" in Cambridge and reporting that General William Howe surrendered to George Washington.

1778

Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 9 January 1778
Letter from Hannah Winthrop discussing the effects of the war and the migration of "knowledge" moving westwards from the "eastern World." 
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 4 February 1778
Letter from Hannah Winthrop describing the "Luxurious manner" in which the British officers are living in Cambridge.
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 29 August 1778
Letter from Hannah Winthrop lamenting that the heat of summer prevents a journey to visit her friend, discussing the continued presence of British troops and sending her a "Review," the lines of which gave her "great Pleasure."
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 18 December 1778
Letter from Hannah Winthrop discussing the death of Col. James Otis, their friendship, and the recent illness of her husband, John Winthrop. 

1779

Letter from Mercy Otis Warren to Hannah Winthrop (letterbook copy), 24 May 1779
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren offering condolences on the death of Hannah's husband, John Winthrop.
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 12 October 1779
Letter from Hannah Winthrop discussing the departure of a recent houseguest (Mercy Otis Warren's son Charles) and the hurt and pain resulting from the recent passing of her husband, John Winthrop.

1780

Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 17 January 1780
Letter from Hannah Winthrop, expressing her appreciation for  Warren's friendship, wishing long life and happiness to her and her husband, and discussing the current winter conditions.
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 20 April 1780
Letter from Hannah Winthrop, in which, from "The desolate mansion, the lonely silence", she bestows blessings on her children "in quest of the joys of social intercourse."
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 1 September 1780
Letter from Hannah Winthrop, describing widowed life, expressing further gratitude for their continued friendship, and commenting on Warren's intention to write a "History of America."

1781

Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 2 January 1781
Letter from Hannah Winthrop, welcoming the presence of Mercy's son, Henry Warren, into her household and imploring her friend to visit.
Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 11 May 1781
Letter from Hannah Winthrop reacting to the news that Warren has been ill. 

1782

Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 16 January 1782
Letter from Hannah Winthrop requesting her friend to visit and expressing her disappointment at not having seen her for so long.

1786

Letter from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 23 March 1786
Letter from Hannah Winthrop offering condolences (possibly for the death of Mercy's son, Charles Warren, in 1784) and wishing to "pour in the Healing balm."

1789

Letter from Mercy Otis Warren to Hannah Winthrop (letterbook copy), 6 February 1789
Letter from Mercy Otis Warren reporting that her life is very quiet and that she and her husband "have little to do with either the political, the great or the little world."

 

About the Manuscript Collections

Correspondence with Mercy Otis Warren. This manuscript collection consists of primarily of letters sent from Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren over the span of thirty years.  Winthrop’s letters to Warren illustrate the close-knit friendship of these two revolutionary women. Topics discussed include family, illness and death, the Siege of Boston and their displacement from Boston during the war, travel in Massachusetts, politics, literature and poetry, and much more. This website presents 44 manuscript letters from Winthrop to Warren from the collection. Please note, six typewritten transcriptions of letters from Warren to Winthrop, and two typewritten transcriptions of letters from Mercy Otis Warren to Janet Montgomery, are in the manuscript collection, but aren't presented on this website.

Mercy Otis Warren papers. The full manuscript collection consists of three boxes of loose papers and one letterbook. The letters to Hannah Winthrop (featured on this web presentation) are from the 500-page letterbook containing Mercy Otis Warren’s outgoing correspondence for a thirty year period from 1777 to 1800. Among other topics, Warren writes about family and friends, domesticity, and politics and patriotism of the forming nation during the revolutionary period. Other highlights of the manuscript collection include fragments of Warren's dramatic writings and copies of her poems and letters, and journals written by her son, Winslow Warren, while in France, 1781-1783, and Portugal, 1784-1785.


Funding from the Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati supported this project.


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