Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Write On, Mercy! The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren

Write On, Mercy! The Secret Life of Mercy Otis Warren

Gretchen Woelfle
Illustrator:  Alexandra Wallner 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 9
Boyds Mills Press, 2012   ISBN: 978-1590788226

Like many other girls living in Cape Cod, Mercy Otis learned how to cook, spin, and sew. Thanks for her father’s belief that girls should be educated like boys, Mercy also got to learn how to read and write. She studied history, and read plays and poems. When Mercy’s brother went to Harvard, Mercy has to stay home because colleges were not open to young women at that time, but her brother shared his books with her so she learned alongside him.

Through her brother, Mercy met James Warren. James was attracted to Mercy not just because of her looks and personality, but also because of her intelligence. Mercy became James’ wife, and she took care of their home and raised their children. Though her life was full, Mercy did not give up on her love of the written word. When her children were asleep, Mercy wrote poems. She was not going to waste all those years of study.

Mercy and her husband got involved in the revolutionary cause and their home in Plymouth became the place where supporters of American freedom gathered. Then Mercy’s brother Jemmy was brutally beaten by Loyalist supporters. Though his body healed, his mind did not. Mercy became more determined than ever to do what she could for the cause. Not only did she spin and weave her own fabric to defy Britain’s laws, but she also began to write political plays. Loyalists were furious when the plays appeared in the Boston papers, but since they had no idea who had written the plays, they couldn’t do anything about them.

Mercy was eager to do more to support the American cause. Standing by while men went to fight was not her way. Somehow she would find a way to make her mark and do something meaningful.

In the 1700’s, girls and women in the American colonies (and later in the young United States) were expected to stay at home to take care of the household chores and the children. Society was not in favor of them getting educated, and many people thought that women were not mentally capable of being writers or poets. Mercy Otis Warren proved them wrong, and at the same time she did what she could to help free her country from British oppression.

Supplemented by excerpts from Mercy’s own writings, this story gives readers a picture of what Mercy’s life was like. Readers will come to appreciate that Mercy was a strong willed, brave, and intelligent woman who did not let the conventions of her times suppress her creativity.

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