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The Muse of the Revolution: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Founding of a Nation Hardcover – July 1, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807055166
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807055168
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,613,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Stuart reminds us that the U.S. Constitution—notably the Bill of Rights—carries Mercy Otis Warren's fingerprints as much if not more than those of most constitutional delegates. . . . This wonderfully researched and readable book has done an excellent job of giving another view of what it took to make this country.—Library Journal, starred review

"A valiant resurrection of an important early American author."—Kirkus

"A fascinating reminder . . . that the ideals of independence resonated as strongly with American women as with American men."—Christine M. Kreiser, American History

"Death by lightning, duels, treason, smallpox, 16-page rants written with quill pens, nervous breakdowns. This may sound like the stuff of an overwrought period novel, but it's straightforward fact in Nancy Rubin Stuart's nuanced biography of Mercy Otis Warren."—Kathleen Willcox, Bust

"Stuart has artfully set the story in the context of the Revolution . . . . A lively introduction to the great Mercy Otis Warren."—Edith Gelles, Wilson Quarterly

"Should be required reading in American history classes . . . . Warren was one of the great scribes of our American Revolutionary era."—Larry and Saralee Woods, American Spirit

"Warren emerges as a fully fleshed-out woman with literary insecurities, intractable opinions and a high-strung temper as well as deep affection for her husband and sons. Stuart includes fascinating period details, focusing primarily on Warren's home-front experiences of rampant inflation, scarcity of goods, high taxes and profiteering during the Revolution as well as typical 18th-century illnesses and family anxieties. Most poignantly, Stuart depicts Warren's loneliness and despair after the deaths of three of her five sons. This account is valuable as an eyewitness play-by-play of the American Revolution."—Publishers Weekly

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

Nancy Rubin Stuart is an award-winning author, journalist and writer-producer who specializes in women and social history. Her previous books includeThe Reluctant Spiritualist: The Life of Maggie FoxAmerican Empress: The Life and Times of Marjorie Merriweather Post, and Isabella of Castile: The First Renaissance Queen. In connection with her work she has appeared on several national television series and on NPR's "Morning Edition." Her articles have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and many national magazines. She currently serves as one of the directors of the Women Writing Women's Lives Seminar at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. While researching Mercy Otis Warren, she received a 2005 William Randolph Hearst Fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society. She lives in Manhattan with her husband.

More About the Author

NANCY RUBIN STUART is the author of "Defiant Brides: The Untold Story of Two Revolutionary-Eva Women and the Radical Men They Married." This dual biography is a 2013 selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club-2, the History Book Club and the Military Book Club. In March 2014, Beacon Press published the paperback version of "Defiant Brides."

An award-winning author/journalist Nancy specializes in women, social history and current social trends. Long before the declaration of the War On Women, Nancy's books placed the lives of America's important, often-overlooked women on the historical record.

These included "The Muse of the Revolution" of 2008; "The Reluctant Spiritualist" of 2005; "American Empress" of 1995 and "Isabella of Castile" of 1991. Nancy has appeared on national television and been heard on national radio, including NPR's "Morning Edition. While serving as a stringer for the New York Times in the 1980s, Nancy was inspired to write her first books on American womanhood -- "The New Suburban Woman" and "The Mother Mirror."

A prolific journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times,the Los Angeles Times,The New England Quarterly, Nancy now contributes to the Huffington Post and writes a column for the Barnstable Patriot. Currently, she serves as the Executive Director of the Cape Cod Writers Center and is a board member of the Women Writing Women's Lives Seminar at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Website Facebook at

and on Twitter at

Photo Credit: William Stetson, 2012.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Ellison on November 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In Muse of the Revolution, author Nancy Rubin Stuart creates a vivid portrait of Mercy Otis Warren, an extraordinarily influential American woman of her time who had personal relationships with people such as George and Martha Washington, and Elbridge Gerry, a post-revolutionary ambassador to France. Through use of personal letters, family papers, and contemporaneous newspaper accounts, Ms. Stuart re-creates the life and times of Mrs. Warren, whose poems, satirical plays, and pamphlets helped shape the course of events surrounding the birth of the United States.

In her prescient play "The Group," Mrs. Warren accurately predicted the Battles of Lexington and Concord. She also published a pamphlet after the Revolution, ten points of which were incorporated into the Bill of Rights. And for 35 years she labored over a three-volume history of the Revolution and its aftermath, which was published late in her long life. Although it was initially heavily criticized and had few buyers, Mercy Otis Warren lived long enough to see her history vindicated.

Through meticulously annotated research--there are over 20 pages of endnotes and references--Ms. Stuart gives the reader intimate insight into Mercy's family life. Mercy's supportive husband James was first paymaster general of the Continental Army and a delegate to the Provincial Congress during the Revolution. At that time, Mercy was a long-suffering wife, as James was frequently away from home and vulnerable to the dangers of the conflict.

Mercy found a soulmate in another long-suffering wife, Abigail Adams, wife of John, with whom she became lifelong friends and exchanged extensive letters.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on August 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
We make much of the Founding Fathers of our nation, with barely a nod to any founding mothers. There is the legendary composition of the American flag by Betsy Ross, but even if Ms Ross did so, no one pays attention to her ideas or opinions. We have Abigail Adams, whose recommendation to history was not just that she was married to John Adams, but also that she was a clear thinker and did not confine her frequent letters to domestic or matrimonial issues. And then we have Mercy Otis Warren. Who? Mrs. Warren is little known to our time, although she was well known in her own (and was known as "Mrs. Warren") for publishing plays and poetry with political and revolutionary themes, even though she had to do so anonymously, and for having close acquaintances among other writers and among the leaders of the age. She also wrote one of the first histories of the American Revolution, which, if it is not regarded as a classic, is still consulted by historians specializing in the era. That a woman of her time could have the confidence, perhaps the presumption, of writing history was a surprise to her contemporaries, and argues that she had some sort of greatness and is worth knowing about. _The Muse of the Revolution: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Founding of a Nation_ (Beacon Press) by Nancy Rubin Stuart is a fine introduction to Mrs. Warren's life, and to the domestic and civil concerns of Revolutionary patriots.

Warren was born in 1728, and besides getting the domestic education all girls got, she was exposed to the books of her brothers, and succeeded when she begged to accompany them to school.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Strawgold VINE VOICE on December 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Secret Garden of the Mind. This review covers more of the "method" than of simply the book contents, because the same theme seems to run through most of the accounting of the best of history as it broke through daunting barriers.

Secret Societies, Secret Meetings, Secret Pens - much of the best work of the universe of men and women has, of necessity, been carried out in "secret". There were a multitude of different reasons for this, but it all came down to fear of public opinion even as they strove to change it. From the Free Masons to the rebel pens of the Revolutionists - indeed, the very initial stirrings of the Revolution for American Independence formed behind closed doors, so tightly closed in fact, that the exact accounting will never be known because, according to John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, no notes were taken. From the tongue-in-cheek romps of "Silence Do Good" (Benjamin Franklin) to the covert writings of a female (Mercy Otis) who dared to bring her political thoughts before public perusal (but only because they were initially shrouded in secrecy). Pamphlets and plays became ours, all magnificently accomplished through a degree of fine deception; the great works somehow were recognized behind the veil of censorship, recognized though it's authors feared exposure even as they wrote for the people who would persecute them had their real names been revealed.

These writings, some that began as covert and metamorphosed into revealing true identities at last are not only lessons in history, they tell a broader tale about the psyche of those who read the work of others.
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