B is for Barker, Penelope


Okay, raise your teacup high in the air, if you know how Mrs. Penelope Barker and tea are related.

Penelope Pagett was born on June 17, 1728, in Edenton, North Carolina, to Elizabeth Blount and Dr. Samuel Pagett. Her father’s death, quickly followed by her older sister’s death, thrust very adult responsibilities onto Penelope. While still a teen, she became “mother” to Elizabeth’s two children in addition to taking over management of the family plantation and all that it entailed.

Poor, poor Penelope had very bad luck with her men…

frown face

First marriage… to John Hodgson was in 1745. She was 17 years old. During her second pregnancy, John died, leaving her with four children to raise. A bright spot however, amidst all this sorrow, was the large amount of property that she inherited from John. Normally, widows in colonial times  received only one-third of their husband’s estates, just enough to serve as dowry to ensure their remarriage. Lucky, Lucky, Penelope!

Second marriage…Rich, beautiful, and now widowed at nineteen, she married James Craven, a wealthy planter and politician, in 1752. His untimely death two years later left her a widow once again. But since he had no other heirs, she inherited all his estate, making her the richest woman in North Carolina. More money and property!

Third marriage… In 1757, Penelope married a third time, this time to a prominent lawyer, Thomas Barker – she was 28 and he was 44. The couple had three children, all of whom died before their first birthday’s.

So much for men, marriage and children! So once again…

frown face

Not widowed but abandoned in a sense…

In 1761, Thomas Barker sailed to London to serve as agent for the North Carolina Colony, and there became stranded, due to the British blockade of American ships. He did not return home for 17 years and during this time, Penelope single handedly managed her family, their finances and all their various properties. It was during this time that she became involved in politics.

 In Fall of 1774…

She visited more than fifty homes, and invited the ladies to a very special tea party to be held at the home of a Mrs. Elizabeth King on October 25, 1774. At this soon to be infamous party (later be called The Edenton Tea Party), she asked the women to sign a letter that she had addressed to King George stating, “she would not drink any more tea, nor wear any more British cloth.” By signing this petition, these women were committing treason, but they proudly identified themselves with their signature.

barker sign


Next… Penelope’s Bold Move!

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