Williamsburg's "Homespun Ball"

Homespun Coat

In December 1769, Virginia burgesses—a number of whom had opposed Lord Botetourt by supporting contentious resolutions and signing the non-importation Association of the previous May—sponsored a ball in Governor Botetourt's honor. Although George Washington noted in his diary only that he "went to the Ball at the Capitol" on December 13, Williamsburg's Virginia Gazette newspapers painted a much more interesting picture of the event. Few could have missed the spirit of protest amidst the festivities:

"[I]t is with the greatest pleasure we inform our readers that the same patriotic spirit which gave rise to the association of the Gentlemen on a late event, was most agreeably manifest in the dress of the Ladies on this occasion, who, to the number of near one hundred, appeared in homespun gowns; a lively and striking instance of their acquiescence and concurrence in whatever may be the true and essential interest of their country. It were to be [wished] that all assemblies of American Ladies would exhibit a like example of public virtue and private economy, so amiably united."

By early February 1770, word of the fashionable protest reached well beyond Virginia. Newspapers in Philadelphia and Boston picked up the story for their news and opinion sections. The Boston papers added a couplet to their otherwise verbatim copy from William Rind's Virginia Gazette: "Not all the Gems that sparkle in the Mine, Can make the Fair with so much Lustre shine."

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