Mercy Otis Warren



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. 

Additional Information

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.


Cape Cod Woman of the Year Award

Nominations are now closed

THIS YEAR'S WINNER  (To be announced)

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.

Past Recipients

2018                       Nancy Shoemaker
2017                       Dolores Holden Daluz

2016                       Ann M. Williams

2015                       Michelle L. DeSilva

2014                       Mary Lou Petitt

2013                       Dorothy A. Savarese

2012                       Judy W. Scarafile

2011                       Susan A. French

2010                       Gloria W. Rudman

2009                       Mary J. LeClair

2008                       Josephine P. Ives

2007                       Lynne M. Poyant

2006                       Bonnie M. Snow

2005                       Felicia R. Penn

2004                       Eugenia Fortes

2003                       Jean D. Gardner

2002                       Marion R. Vuilleumier