Anna Green Winslow

By B. Donham

Anna Green Winslow was a typical young girl from a wealthy, influential, privileged Boston family during this time. She could support the Patriot cause while her father was in the British army, and could go to school, think about fashion, drink tea, and socialize with other wealthy families and girls like her, largely unaffected by the brewing revolution. Ten years old in 1770, Winslow arrived in Boston as the American Revolution was beginning, leaving her family in Nova Scotia to attend school. She had great privilege entering Boston society as the Winslow name held enormous weight in New England. Winslow descended from two Mayflower passengers, Mary Chilton and John Winslow, whose relatives established the first colonial government. In the next century, many Winslow descendants became government officials or high ranking soldiers in the British army, including her father, giving the already prestigious name more power in Loyalist circles. 

Anna Green Winslow’s inherent privilege as a Winslow allowed her to largely escape any effects of the growing revolution from 1771 to 1772, which she documented in a diary. She recorded her daily life in Boston living with family, as she went to school, socialized with other girls her age, and chronicled Boston fashion. Although a child, she participated or read about several Patriot causes, as well as Loyalist events. She also socialized with many Boston elites and soldiers, both Patriots and Loyalists. Winslow’s ability to interact with both sides of the revolution equally shows that as part of the privileged elite, she did not necessarily have to choose a side in the growing revolution. She clearly was informed of the goings on of colonial Boston, but she and the adults close to her in Boston chose to remain out of the fray and continue thinking about fashion and socializing with other elites. 

November 30, 1771 [1]

“I wore Miss Griswold’s Bonnet on my journey to Portsmouth, & my cousin Sallys Hatt ever since I came home, & now I am to leave off my black ribbins tomorrow, & am to put on my red cloak & black hatt—I hope aunt wont let me wear the black hatt with the red Dominie—for the people will ask me what I have got to sell as I go along street if I do, or, how the folk at New guinie do? Dear mamma [2], you dont know the fation [fashion] here—I beg to look like other folk. You dont know what a stir would be made in sudbury street, were I to make my appearance there in my red Dominie & black Hatt. But the old cloak & bonnett together will make me a decent bonnett for common ocation (I like that) aunt says, its a pitty some of the ribbins you sent wont do for the Bonnet.”

January 17, 1772

“I told you the 27th Ult that I was going to a constitation with miss Soley. I have now the pleasure to give you the result, viz. a very genteel [3] well regulated assembly which we had at Mr Soley’s last evening, miss Soley being mistress of the ceremony. Mrs Soley desired me to assist Miss Hannah in making out a list of guests which I did some time since, I wrote all the invitation cards. There was a large company assembled in a handsome, large, upper room in the new end of the house. We had two fiddles, & I had the honor to open the diversion of the evening in a minuet with miss Soley.— Here follows a list of the company as we form’d for country dancing.

Miss Soley    &

Miss Calif

Miss Williams

Miss Codman

Miss Ives

Miss Scolley

Miss Waldow

Miss Glover

Miss Hubbard [4]

Miss Anna Greene Winslow

Miss Scott

Miss McCarthy

Miss Winslow

Miss Coffin

Miss Bella Coffin

Miss Quinsy

Miss Draper

Miss Cregur (usually pronounced Kicker) & two Miss Sheafs were invited but were sick or sorry & beg’d to be excus’d. There was a little Miss Russell & the little ones of the family present who could not dance. As spectators, there were Mr & Mrs Deming, Mr. & Mrs Sweetser Mr & Mrs Soley, Mr & Miss Cary, Mrs Draper, Miss Oriac, Miss Hannah—our treat was nuts, rasins, Cakes, Wine, punch, hot & cold, all in great plenty. We had a very agreeable evening from 5 to 10 o’clock. For variety we woo’d a widow, hunted the whistle, threaded the needle, & while the company was collecting, we diverted ourselves with playing of pawns, no rudeness Mamma I assure you. Aunt Deming desires you would perticulary observe, that the elderly part of the company were spectators only, they mix’d not in either of the above describ’d scenes.

I was dress’d in my yellow coat, black bib & apron, black feathers on my head, my past comb, & all my past garnet marquesett & jet pins, together with my silver plume—my loket, rings, black collar round my neck, black mitts & 2 or 3 yards of blue ribbin, (black & blue is high tast) striped tucker and ruffels (not my best) & my silk [5] shoes compleated my dress.”

February 21, 1772

“I have made the purchase I told you of a few pages agone, that is, last Thursday I purchas’d with my aunt Deming’s leave, a very beautiful white feather hat, that is, the out side, which is a bit of white hollond with the feathers sew’d on in a most curious manner white & unsullyed as the falling snow, this hat I have long been saving my money to procure for which I have let your kind allowance, Papa, lay in my aunt’s hands till this hat which I spoke for was brought home. As I am (as we say) a daughter of liberty I chuse to wear as much of our own manufactory as pocible.”

September 22, 1772

”The king’s coronation day. In the evening I went with mamma to Coln Marshal’s in King Street to see the fireworks.”

May 16, 1772

”Last Wednesday Bet Smith [6] was set upon the gallows. She behav’d with great impudence. Thursday I danc’d a minuet & country dances at school, after which I drank tea with aunt Storer. To day I am somewhat out of sorts, a little sick at my stomach.” 

Discussion Questions

    1. Anna Green Winslow’s social life and love of fashion fit into the consumption habits of the elite. But how might her life have changed after the Tea Act of 1773, which taxed imports of tea from Britain? Do you think she would support or oppose the act, and the eventual Boston Tea Party in which colonists protested the act by throwing tea into Boston Harbor? Additionally, what might she have thought about textiles and clothing imported from Britain, based on her self proclaimed title of “daughter of liberty”? What might she have thought about cotton textiles and its connection to slavery?  
    2. What other groups could continue their lives without the growing revolution affecting them, like Anna Green Winslow and her circles? What groups would have seen their lives change most? 
    3. If Anna Green Winslow had been older in 1771 and able to be more politically active, do you think she would be more involved in the Revolution? Or would she still have remained out of the fray?


Bryant, Maria Warren Whitman. Genealogy of Edward Winslow of the Mayflower, And His Descendants, From 1620 to 1865. New Bedford, Mass.: E. Anthony & Sons, Inc., Printers, 1915.

Bushman, Richard L. The Refinement of America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Earle, Alice Morse, ed. Diary of Anna Green Winslow: A Boston School Girl of 1771. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1895. 

Rothstein, Natalie. “Silk in European and American Trade before 1783: A commodity of commerce or a frivolous luxury?” Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings. 616 (1990): accessed April 14, 2021.

Travers, Len. “Casualty of Revolution: The Sad Case of Betty Smith.” Journal of the American Revolution. February 5, 2019.


[1] Winslow did not write in her journal every day, but her 70 page diary contains dozens of entries from November of 1771 to May of 1772. The selected excerpts cover this range of time. 

[2] Winslow’s diary also includes several letters she wrote to her family in Nova Scotia. 

[3] Anna Green Winslow and those at the “assemblies,” or parties, she attended were part of the genteel class. This group of people occupied an upper social class made of wealthy elites, who had deep and widespread social and political ties within the colonies. Gentility also describes the activities that those in this class did, including practicing proper handwriting, posture, speech, conversation, and especially dancing. Having these traits and skills “bestowed social power” on the genteel. Additionally, clothing marked “rank and character” of genteel people, signaling perhaps why Winslow was so interested in fashion. See Richard L Bushman, The Refinement of America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), 63, 68-69. 

[4] This list of young girls reveals the children of elite Bostonians, and Anna Green Winslow then lists many of their relatives as other attendees of their party. As the editor of Winslow’s diary explains, many of these young girls eventually married British or American soldiers, and came from wealthy and well known families. See Alice Morse Earle, ed, Diary of Anna Green Winslow: A Boston School Girl of 1771 (Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1895), 101.

[5] Mulberry trees, necessary to make silk, did not grow in the colonies during this period, so any silk product had to be imported to the Americas. Silk was primarily grown in China or Piedmont, Italy, and imported to the colonies via Europe. Many colonial cities received these imports, but “above all,” Boston received the most. Silk cloth, as well as completed ribbons, fans, linens, and more flooded the market, where wealthy people like Anna Green Winslow could buy silk goods in order to show off their high fashion and wealth. See Natalie Rothstein, “Silk in European and American Trade before 1783: A commodity of commerce or a frivolous luxury?” Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings. 616 1990: accessed April 14, 2021,, 1, 6, 8. 

[6] After British soldiers arrived in Boston in 1768, a woman named Elizabeth, or Bet, Smith was jailed several times for various reasons. Smith seemed to have had a relationship with a British soldier, and was jailed for doing so. After this, Smith stole a large quantity of clothing and was sent to a workhouse in Boston. Once transferred to a jail, she and several other women set the jail on fire. The fire was put out, but Smith was punished by being publicly whipped in the center of Boston for all, including Anna Green Winslow, to see. See Len Travers, “Casualty of Revolution: The Sad Case of Betty Smith” Journal of the American Revolution, February 5, 2019.