Women in Taverns

Taverns were at the forefront of the American Revolution in terms of the spread of ideas and motivation throughout the colonists. Taverns provided food, drink, and comfort for travelers to the courthouses and cities. The founding fathers played important roles in the taverns in Boston and Philadelphia. However, women are forgotten in this seemingly masculine environment.

The role of women during this time focuses on the maintenance of the home and family. Most women that received land deeds during the 18thcentury were likely widows, yet many were also mothers and daughters that worked in taverns, public houses, inns, and shops. For instances, in Petersburg, Virginia, a woman named Ann Forbes, “held the town record for liquor sale violations” and about 30% of all violations and failures to obtain liquor license were by a woman.[1]This raises the interesting question about how many women were active participants to local economies and governments. Historic Taverns are knowns as breeding ground for revolutionary thoughts as well as the operation of governments.

A complete history of women in taverns is important to the understanding of cultural traditions and the work of women in a public setting other than a mother, wife, or daughter, but as a businesswoman. This research will explore the way in which females ran taverns and the relevance of their establishments in society. The analysis of women in the workplace would provide insight to the social constructs between genders and the female influence on public life and drinking.

[1]Lebsock, Suzanne. The Free Women of Petersburg: Status and Culture in a Southern Town,

1874-1860. New York: W.W. Norton &, 1990. 177.




Brenna Reilley