Write On, Mercy! The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren
2012 SILVER MEDAL EUREKA! AWARD - CALIFORNIA READING ASSOCIATION
WRITE ON, MERCY! Teachers' Guide to Classroom Activities (80.2KB)
For lively, creative class projects in social studies, history, current events, creative writing and dramatics, and visual arts and crafts, download the pdf file here.
Write On, Mercy! The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren
Gretchen Woelfle, illus. by Alexandra Wallner. Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek, $16.95 (32p)
Move over, Thomas Paine! Revolutionary War writer and activist finds fame! First biography for young readers published!
Mercy Otis of colonial Massachusetts did not attend college but studied at home with her father’s encouragement. After her marriage to James Warren, she began writing and joined the political discussions about breaking ties with Great Britain that were held in her home. As open rebellion grew closer, she wrote political plays, albeit unsigned. When fighting broke out, Warren began an ambitious project—a history of the American Revolution, concentrating on “radical thoughts and bold actions.” It was published in 1805 under her name. Woelfle’s lively and informative style keeps the narrative flowing. Wallner’s gouache paintings are colorful and spirited, with a good mix of full-page scenes and close-ups of prominent figures. In a nice touch, Mercy Otis Warren's Copley portrait hanging in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is reproduced. Decorative inserts excerpt her writings and those of her father and her husband. It is usually Abigail Adams who gets the nod whenever women of colonial and revolutionary-era America are mentioned, so this title certainly fills a niche.
A solid addition to the canon. (author’s note, timeline, bibliography, websites) (Picture book/biography. 6-10)
Growing up on Cape Cod, Mercy Otis (1728–1814) preferred listening to her father’s stories about his work as a member of the colonial House of Representatives to cooking or sewing. Writing poetry and “fiery pamphlets about ‘natural rights’ for men and women,” Warren was active throughout the Revolutionary War, attending meetings for patriots who were planning the Continental Congress, as well as writing political plays and later the History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution. Woelfle’s sturdy writing outlines the course of Warren’s life as a wife, mother, and activist. Wallner’s bright gouache illustrations have an unadorned style well-suited to the period. End pages include a time line of Warren’s life, a note about the “separate spheres of influence” of men and women at the time, and a painting of Warren by John Singleton Copley. Ages 8–up.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5–This picture-book biography tells Warren’s story and shows the state of women’s education and opportunities in Colonial and Revolutionary America. Born to a relatively progressive family, a fact frequently noted, Warren was educated at home and grew up with an interest in politics and in writing. As an adult, she became involved in politics through her writing, publishing political poems, essays, and, finally, a famous history of the American Revolution. Painterly images in soft colors dominate the book, and all of the pictures focus primarily on people, such as Warren herself, her family, her husband, and fellow writers and revolutionaries. Quotes from her writings and those of her contemporaries are highlighted throughout. This is a good introduction to one woman’s life, and the place of her life in history, supplemented by quite a bit of back matter. Great for reports and background information on an important but oft-overlooked early American figure.–Heather Talty, formerly at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, New York City
In choosing writer Mercy Otis Warren (1728–1814) as her subject, Woelfle offers young readers a view of the colonial period that veers away from typical battle-driven, male-dominated accounts. In a quieter narrative voice than Laurie Halse Anderson’s group biography, Independent Dames (2011), this starts with the details that are most meaningful to children, such as Warren’s equal education with her brother, Jemmy, and her strong bond with him. Mercy, a dynamo of energy, wrote both journalistic pieces of
advocacy and a three-volume history of the Revolution. Wallner’s illustrations use the opacity of gouache to foreground Warren’s domestic realities. The faces are lightly detailed (and Warren’s face ages appropriately), but it’s the clothing, the furniture, and the writing equipment that stand out against lighter backgrounds. The pages also include examples of Warren’s writings, not easily available otherwise, and additional research leads conclude.
The Barnstable Patriot - from Mercy's hometown
“Oh, Mercy, what have you done now?” I could just hear one of Mercy’s friends or siblings shouting that as she started to become quite active in politics, a traditionally male-dominated arena where women in the 18th century dared not tread.
But Mercy ignored all that, had a goal, and went about achieving it.
Write on, Mercy! is a delightful and informative children’s book about Mercy Otis Warren, a renowned political writer of the mid-1700s who grew up on Cape Cod and then moved to Plymouth. There were two things unique about Mercy. She was a good writer, mostly because as a girl she had to educate herself. And she was determined that women could be involved and write about politics, pen political satires (often tongue in cheek), and offer opinions on other, more serious topics.
This book, written by Gretchen Woelfle and illustrated by Alexandra Wallner, is a new release in 2012. It takes the reader through Mercy’s childhood in West Barnstable where, from the keeping room window, she could look over the Great Marsh from the dirt path (what is now Route 6A near the bank and West Barnstable post office). Her house is no longer there, but a plaque identifies its location.
The book goes on to explain how she was educated by a local minister, because girls did not go to college. How she devoured Harvard textbooks when her brother, Jemmy, would come home for the weekend. And how she still learned domestic chores, making sure she always had time to read, write and learn, learn, learn.
The book then focuses on Mercy’s interest not just in history, but largely politics. She became more and more involved and was one of the most notable authors of the American Revolution. Many did not know it at the time. But officially in 1805, at the age of 77, Mercy wrote her most significant pieces of work. These are the three volumes totaling more than 1,000 pages titled the History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution. And she signed her name: Mrs. Mercy Warren.
Write On Mercy! is an easy read with quotes from Mercy or her husband’s publications. It runs chronologically, so there is no jumping around. The illustrations are good depictions of Mercy, her siblings and other local activists. You can just picture how it must have been with a political meeting in her livingroom, then deemed One Liberty Place.
It was interesting to note that at the time Mercy was harboring the secret that she was an anonymous author, she did share her secret with Abigail and John Adams, and of course her husband, James Warren. They encouraged her to write on and she did. They were all very close friends, at least for a while.
The book can be for a beginner, but an adult unfamiliar with Mercy could read it and obtain a good overall sense of who Mercy Otis Warren really was. Read on!
Children's Literature Journal
Although young readers may not recognize the name Mercy Otis Warren, she is brought to life in this brief illustrated biography by an author and illustrator who are both veterans in publishing historically based books for young readers. Drawn in large part from primary source materials, including the letters of Mercy Otis Warren, this story recounts the work of an intelligent educated woman who sought to make a difference when women were still effectively barred from participation in political life. Encouraged by her father and later her husband, Mercy read widely and was passionate about the revolutionary politics in which the men of her family were involved during the latter part of the 18th century. She also wrote and published poems and plays which appeared anonymously in broadsheets and newspapers of the time; eventually she completed a three-volume history of the Revolutionary War which was published in 1805—finally under her own name! Excerpts from her writings are interspersed with the storyline. An author's note about Mercy, a copy of her portrait by renowned painter John Singleton Copley, a timeline and an excellent list of readings and sources follow the text. This would be a very accessible accompaniment to discussions about the war, about the evolution of women's rights in the United States and even about the importance of civic participation. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
And perhaps my favorite, from the Barnes and Noble website:
Im a 10 year old in 5th grade I realy like this book. Im writing a biography on Mercy Otis Warren and this gave me alot of information! I realy recomend this book to kids 11 or under.