Hannah Winthrop, Patriot

And be it known unto Britain, even American daughters are Politicians & Patriots and will aid the good work with their Female Efforts.

Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, letter, 1 January 1774; “Correspondence of Mercy Otis Warren and Hannah Winthrop,” Massachusetts Historical Society, boston.
John Singleton Copley, Mrs. John [Hannah] Winthrop (1729-1790), oil painting, 1773, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY; Wikimedia Commons. This work is in the public domain.

The following short biography was written over one hundred years ago by Mary S. Lockwood (Mary Smith) and Emily Lee Sherwood Ragan, Story of the Records, DAR (Washington, D.C.: G.E. Howard, 1906), 124-126.

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Hannah Winthrop, the eldest daughter of Thomas and Hannah (Waldo) Fairweather or Fayerweather, was born in Boston, February 25, 1726. She married September 10, 1745, at the age of nineteen, Farr Tolman, and early becoming a widow, married for her second husband (Banns published, March 25, 1756) John Winthrop, LL. D. Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in Harvard College, one of the most distinguished scientific men of his age. He was a great-great-grandson of Governor John Winthrop. Madam Winthrop shared her husband’s interests and pursuits to a remarkable degree for a woman in those days. We find her assisting him in his astronomical observations and writing to Mercy Warren at Plymouth with enthusiastic appreciation of the study of the heavens. 

She, as well as her husband, was an ardent patriot, and the name of Hannah Winthrop is inscribed on the “Roll of Honor” as one who gave of her substance to the government in the time of need. The war, indeed, became to her early a stern reality ; of the famous 19th of April she wrote a graphic description to Mercy Warren, telling her of her hasty flight from home when it seemed advisable that the women of Cambridge should seek shelter elsewhere. At one time, she was so near the conflict as to be covered with dirt and dust from the firing, and she passed the bodies of the slain at Menotomy in her journey to Andover the following morning, to which place the library of Harvard College was sent for safe keeping. 

One of Professor Winthrop’s sons received his baptism of fire at the battle of Bunker Hill, being severely wounded, but he went forth again from his step-mother’s side several times, as a volunteer to the patriotic cause, with her blessing on his head. 

Dr. Winthrop died in May, 1779; his wife lived until May 1790, occupying until her death the home on Winthrop Square, in which they had lived together many years. 

Her own letters and family papers as well as family traditions, combine to make a vivid picture of this estimable woman’s life; another record added to the list of New England heroines, whose precept and example have made their impress on the women of today. Well done Daughters of Cambridge! You are not only keeping Hannah Winthrop’s memory green, but emulating her example, in faithfully doing what your hands find to do, for the good of home and country. 

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