Episode 253: Susan Clair Imbarrato, Life & Revolution in Boston & Grenada

What can a family history tell us about revolutionary and early republic America?

What can the letters of a wife and mother tell us about life in the Caribbean during the Age of Revolutions?

These are questions Susan Clair Imbarrato, a Professor of English at Minnesota State University Moorhead, set out to answer as she explored an amazing trove of letters to and from a woman named Sarah Gray Cary.

About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.

Episode Summary

In this episode we join Susan Clair Imbarrato, a Professor of English at Minnesota State University Moorhead and author of Sarah Gray Cary from Boston to Grenada: Shifting Fortunes of an American Family, 1753-1825, to discover more about the letters of Sarah Gray Cary and what they reveal about how she and her family experienced the American Revolution on the island of Grenada.

As we explore the life and letters of Sarah Gray Cary, Susan reveals why the letters of Sarah Gray Cary are remarkable and what they can tell us about the Age of Revolutions; Details about the lives of Sarah Gray Cary and her family; And the different ways the American Revolution impacted the Cary Family’s ability to stay together and make money in the transatlantic economy.

What You’ll Discover

  • Sarah Gray Cary’s letters
  • How Susan added details to the lives and experiences of the Cary Family
  • Sarah Gray Cary and her childhood
  • Sarah Gray Cary’s correspondence with Mercy Otis Warren
  • Details about Samuel Cary, husband of Sarah Gray Cary
  • The appeal of the West Indies to young men of the 18th century
  • The island of Grenada during the 18th century
  • How the Carys transitioned from life in Boston to life in Grenada
  • Ways the American Revolution disrupted the Carys’ lives
  • Life in Grenada
  • Fedon’s Rebellion, 1795
  • The Cary Family’s finances
  • Retirement of Samuel & Sarah Cary


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Time Warp PlainTime Warp Question

In your opinion, what might have happened if Sarah and Samuel Cary had not spent the American Revolution in Grenada? How would the trajectory of the Cary family and its fortunes would have been different?

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