Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814) was the unsung heroine of the American Revolution. As one of the intellectual leaders of the rebellion, she wrote countless pamphlets, plays, and treatises explaining the American cause. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson considered her a rare genius. Perhaps her most lasting contribution was the Bill of Rights: it was she who sketched out the principles that would be enshrined in the first ten amendments to the Constitution.

The portrait above right is by John Singleton Copley and was done when Mercy was about 35 years old. The sculpture on the left is by George Stuart. For the costume, you just need a colonial lady outfit—a rather nice-looking one, since Mercy was upper-class. The pieces we suggest, from left to right:

1. Colonial “Martha Washington” costume. This is ideal for Mercy or indeed any upper-class lady of the colonial period. Includes the lace-trimmed mob cap. They have this in small, medium, and large.
2. Crinoline. This will give you a nice full look down to the floor. However, you’ll also need some padding around the hips, so read on.
3. Bum roll. Like other gentlewomen of the era, Mercy wore panniers, or side hoops. That’s what made the dresses stick straight out from the hips on each side. You can buy these today from the people who do historical reenactments, but they’re rather expensive. Also, we’re not sure they would really fit under this costume. So a simpler approach is to just tie on a bum roll. This will give you some padding around the hips and in the back. You can also rig up your own bum roll/pannier arrangement with a little ingenuity and experimentation: try stuffing pillowcases with something fluffy and then strapping them onto your hips.
4. Replica of the Bill of Rights. Carry this with you and tell everyone it was your idea. Because it was.
5. Ballpoint feather pen. This is a fun prop: it looks like a colonial quill pen, but it’s really a ballpoint.


Other costumes in this category: Notable Women