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Anna Green Winslow Listens to the Patriot Preacher


Anna Green Winslow was a 10-year-old schoolgirl whose observations of pre-Revolutionary Boston have stayed in print since 1894.

Anna Green Winslow

Anna Green Winslow

She was born Nov. 29, 1759 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a member of the prominent Winslow family. Her father Joshua Winslow would be named a common pleas judge. Her mother was a daughter of a wealthy merchant.  She was a descendant on her father’s side of Puritan Edward Winslow’s older brother and, on her mother ‘s side, of another Puritan, Percival Green.

When Anna Green Winslow was 10 years old, her parents sent her to Boston to live with her father’s older sister, Sarah Deming, to be ‘finished.’ While in Boston she learned the skills required of a well-brought-up young lady. She went to school for sewing, dancing and handwriting.

Anna copied her letters to her mother into a book, starting on Nov. 18, 1771. The historian Alice Morse Earle published her book with extensive footnotes in 1894. Called Diary of Anna Green Winslow, A Boston School Girl of 1771.

Patriot Preacher

Anna Green Winslow‘s father was a confirmed Loyalists, but she went anyway to hear the Rev. Samual Stillman, the ‘Patriot Preacher,’ at the First Baptist Church in Boston.

Samuel Stillman was born in Philadelphia in 1737, but moved to South Carolina with his family at a young age. In 1762 he moved to Boston as assistant pastor of the Second Baptist Church. In 1765 he was made pastor of the First Baptist Church, a post he would hold until his death in 1807.

The Rev. Samuel Stillman

The Rev. Samuel Stillman

Over those 52 years he took the First Baptist Church from one of the smallest congregations in Boston to one of the largest. “Crowds thronged his obscure little church at the North End, and he took an active part in Revolutionary politics,” wrote Alice Morse Earle. “Many were pleased with his patriotism who did not agree with him in doctrine.”

So pleased were they that they elected him to the convention for the formation of the state constitution in 1779. Nine years later, he was elected to the convention for the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and he delivered an eloquent speech in support of it. Stillman persuaded so many undecided people  that he was credited with contributing much toward the adoption of the Constitution.

That would be much later, though. In September 1772, Anna Green Winslow recorded her impressions of him in her diary:

20.—Sabbath Day. I went to hear Mr. Stillman all day, I like him very much. I don’t wonder so many go to hear him.

This story last updated in 2022.


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