Address to the Ladies

Anonymous, 1767

This song was published in 1767. What act of parliament do you think inspired this song? Townshend Duties, 1767. What were women being asked to do? Boycott tea and British manufacturers; wear their own homespun linen clothes.

What arguments does the song use to convince young women to comply with the boycott? Homespun will soon become the fashion; men will see by their clothes that they are patriotic and be attracted to them; love of country.

Think of commercials on TV and on the internet today directed to young women. How do they use fashion and attractiveness to young men to persuade? How many use love of country to persuade? Thinking about the arguments that you find convincing today, how effective do you think this song was to young women in the 1760s?

"Address to the Ladies" performed by Jan Robertson on American Revolutionary War Songs to Cultivate the Sensations of Freedom, Folkways [05279], © 1976. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

In this recording the singer is accompanied by a pianoforte, as in a parlor performance to entertain friends.

View the music and lyrics for "Address to the Ladies."

View an original publication of the lyrics.

The text of this song appeared in the Boston News Letter when the populace of that city had declared that it would no longer import any tea, glass, paper, or other commodities until England repealed the duty tax on those items. This song, one of the few from this era written from the viewpoint of a woman, entreats women to be frugal during the hard times. This kind of frugality had a significant impact on the trade to the Colonies. The exports from England, which had been $11,890,000 in 1768, declined the following year to $8,170,000.

The lyrics of the song seem to be modeled on Thomas D’Urfey’s “Advice to the Ladies of London” (ca. 1686), the melody of which was used for dozens of new texts throughout the 1700s. Since the words of “Address to the Ladies” fits that melody, that is the tune to which they are usually sung today, although there are other melodies from the period that could also be used.

Bohea: A black tea from China.

brocade: A rich fabric with raised designs.

spark(ish): Woo or court.

Labradore: A type of tea made from a North American shrub.

Courtesy of Library of Congress, "Advice to young ladies. Air---John Dean. Andrews, Printer, 38 Chatham Street, N.Y.," Date Unknown
Courtesy of Library of Congress, "Advice to young ladies. Air---John Dean. Andrews, Printer, 38 Chatham Street, N.Y.," Date Unknown

Design a poster or broadside in the style of the time reminding women what they can do to conserve. The Library of Congress has a great collection of these that may be used for inspiration.

Write a letter to the editor of a colonial newspaper in support of colonial manufacturers and suggest ways citizens can encourage home industries.

If you depended on shipping and trade for your livelihood, how might you react to this song? What might happen to foreign trade if the colonies started to manufacture their own goods? Does that necessarily mean that colonial merchant traders were British loyalists? What other British laws might affect them negatively?

Write a response to this song as someone whose living depended on trade with Britain might write it.


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