Mercy Otis Warren, born in West Barnstable in 1728, was a playwright, a historian, a pioneer in women’s rights, a champion of liberty, an advocate of the Bill of Rights and a patriot. In an era where it was unusual for women to be educated, much less to emerge as a leader, her advocacy for the cause of patriotism and a central role for women in society was remarkable. Mercy Otis Warren was born on September 14, 1728, the third of thirteen children and first daughter of Colonel James Otis (1702–1778) and Mary Allyne Otis (1702–1774). The family lived in West Barnstable, Massachusetts. Mary Allyne was a descendant of Mayflower passenger Edward Doty. James Otis, Sr., was a farmer, and attorney, who served as a judge for the Barnstable County Court of Common Pleas. He won election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1745. He was an outspoken opponent and leader against British rule and against the appointed colonial governor, Thomas Hutchinson.
The Otis children were raised in the midst of revolutionary ideals". Although Mercy had no formal education, she studied with the Reverend Jonathan Russell while he tutored her brothers Joseph and James in preparation for College. Unlike most girls of the time who were simply literate, Warren wanted to learn as much as she possibly could. She devoured book after book, learning about history and language. This set her apart from other girls, and most likely paved the way for her to break the traditional gender roles of her time. Her father also had unconventional views of his daughter's education, as he fully supported her endeavors, which was extremely unusual for the 18th century. James Otis attended Harvard College and became a noted patriot and lawyer. What little of his correspondence with Mercy survives suggests that James encouraged Mercy's academic and literary efforts, treating her as an intellectual equal and confidante.
She married James Warren on November 14, 1754. After settling in Plymouth, James inherited his father's position as sheriff. His previous occupations included farming and merchanting.
The Mercy Otis Warren Cape Cod Woman of the Year Selection Committee in partnership with the Barnstable County Commissioners is proud to announce that the winner of the 18th Annual Mercy Otis Warren Cape Cod Woman of the Year Award is Juliet Bernstein of Chatham.
Juliet Bernstein was nominated by Lee Roscoe of Brewster. In her nomination, Ms. Roscoe described Juliet Bernstein as a life-long peace activist and since she is 105 years young, that is a long time! Born in 1913, she recalls accompanying her mother in a horse drawn carriage to the polls in the early days of women's voting rights. Encouraged by her mother's progressive thinking, she earned a bachelor's degree at Brooklyn College and. a master's degree from Columbia University Teacher's College. She was a teacher in the New York public schools for many years.
Mrs. Bernstein coordinated the Cape Cod Chapter of Fellowship of Reconciliation (F. O.R), an international peace and justice group and wrote its newsletter until she was I 00 years old. She brought internationally important speakers to F.O.R events, helped initiate the Olive Branch Award for outstanding activism in peace and justice and started the EO.R. peace poetry contest at Nauset Regional Middle School. She served as president of the local League of Women Voters Cape Cod Chapter. Mrs. Bernstein also has fought for teacher's rights in strikes, pushed resolutions to make Cape Cod towns "nuclear free zones" and advocated successfully for women's right to participate in the Chatham Town Band. In 1993, the Cape Cod Chapter of the NAACl awarded her the Unsung Hero Award in "recognition of her unyielding dedication to human rights ... "
Former Mercy Otis Warren Cape Cod Woman of the Year (2008) Josephine Ives called her "the social conscience of the Town ... but (noted that she) is kind to everyone, even those who are dead set against what she is advocating." Nominator Lee Roscoe noted that she is "the very essence of Mercy Otis Warren, a woman who is a true patriot, tirelessly working to improve her nation and her community, tc forward equality, civil rights, peace and justice for all throughout her entire life".
The award is a marquette of the statue of Mercy Otis Warren which is located on lawn of the Barnstable County Courthouse. This prestigious award is given annually to the Cape Cod woman who most demonstrates leadership in the Cape Cod Community, who has made a significant contribution to the arts, education, business, community and/or volunteerism, while embracing the ideals of patriotism.
Brochures with details about this unique and prestigious award are available for viewing and printing. The brochure describes criteria for the award, the guidelines for nomination, and gives highlights of the life of Mercy Otis Warren
The award is presented at the ceremony held at the Tales of Cape Cod, and the recipient will be asked to participate in the 4th of July parade in Barnstable Village.