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r Women, Misrule, and Political Culture Nowmark the late tragedy: Old Governor Barkly, altered bymar­ rying a young wyff, from his wonted publicq good, to a covetous fools age. 11Complaint from Heaven with a Huy and crye and a petition out of Virginia and Maryland11 (1676) LADY FRANCES BERKELEY, the wife of Virginia's governor, Sir William Berkeley, was as much involved in Virginia's politics as her husband was. During Bacon's Rebellion in 1 676, she bandied words with the rebel himself, Nathaniel Bacon, Jr., as well as volleyed taunts and jeers with his followers. She sailed to England in June r 676 as her husband's emissary to the Crown and successfully petitioned the Privy Council for soldiers to put down the revolt. She returned to Virginia in Febru­ ary 1 677, accompanied by three shiploads of troops and Sir Herbert Jef­ freys, who subsequently both succeeded her husband as lieutenant governor and grew to seriously dislike Lady Berkeley for the power she wielded in colonial politics. She insulted the commissioners sent by the England's Charles II to investigate the rebellion; yet when a com­ missioner asked her to do so, she helped to obtain a pardon for one of the rebels. Little wonder that she was both admired and feared: Lady Berkeley was an outspoken woman who had no qualms about at­ tempting to broker the political crises that she witnessed in seven­ teenth-century Virginia. 1 This was not exactly the role everyone envisioned for the gover­ nor's wife. In r6so, one young woman, Virginia Ferrar, whose family had significant interests in the colony, wrote that the wife of Virginia's governor ought to be 11 an instrument of welfare" for the colony. Fer­ rar conceived of Lady Berkeley (by which she meant not Frances Berke­ ley in particular but any woman married to Sir William) as one of a succession of politically powerful women who had contributed to VirI9 20 Brabbling Women ginia's development. These included Queen Isabella, who, although "slighted by the Kings of England and Spain," was the means to Vir­ ginia's discovery, and Queen Elizabeth, who, following Isabella's "heroic lead, " encouraged its settlement. "Discovered by the means of one woman, planted by the commands of another," in Ferrar's eyes, Lady Berkeley was now to assume her place among the women who were instrumental in the founding and colonization of Virginia.2 For many of her contemporaries, however, Lady Berkeley was a paragon of female misrule. According to the Maryland petitioners cited in this chapter's epigraph, Lady Frances Berkeley did not in any way fit into this illustrious sequence of female heroism. Instead, she corrupted her husband away from his sensible approach to gover­ nance: under her influence, he became greedy, reckless, and tyranni­ cal. Other individuals and officials who observed and wrote about Virginia's political instabilities, particularly Bacon's Rebellion (r676) and, to a lesser extent, the Tobacco Cutting Riots (r682), also blamed disorderly women for destabilizing civil and domestic society. Women, of course, were not the only source of anxiety for Virginia's leaders. Narratives of female misrule fit into a virtual constellation of insta­ bilities that threatened Virginia's leadership. Insurgency seethed from many quarters: Quakers gained converts; indentured servants and slaves plotted revolts; large planters challenged the governor's poli­ cies; small planters destroyed their crops; and the tributary Pamunkey Native Americans were not always as cooperative as the English would have liked them to be. Female misrule and, in particular, the brabbling speeches of women were persistent elements in the political conflicts that engulfed seventeenth-century Virginia. To a certain extent, the perception of disorderly women was a reflection of actual women who involved themselves on all sides of civil discord. Lady Frances Berkeley, as well as Sarah Drummond and Lydia Chisman, whose husbands were hung for their treason, Sarah Grendon, and even Cockacoeske, the leader of the Pamunkey Indians, all received commentary from the pens of those observing the rebellion. Both loyalists and rebels in Bacon's Re­ bellion fastened explicitly on selected women who were powerful enough, or claimed to be powerful enough, to influence and direct the political sensibilities of men. These women were named, their of­ fenses catalogued, and their reprisals, if any, carefully described. Other lower-ranking women, including possibly female slaves and servants, Women, Misrule, and Political Culture 21 were not explicitly named; but officials nonetheless specifically marked the presence of women who...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780801469930
Related ISBN
9780801440526
MARC Record
OCLC
857065590
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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