Episode 380: Cynthia A. Kierner, The Tory’s Wife

Cover of The Tory's Wife by Cynthia A. KiernerThe American Revolution was a movement that divided British Americans. Americans did not universally agree on the Revolution’s ideas about governance and independence. And the movement’s War for Independence was a bloody civil war that not only pitted brother against brother and fathers against sons; it also pitted wives against husbands.

Cynthia A. Kierner is a professor of history at George Mason University and the author of the book The Tory’s Wife: A Woman and Her Family in Revolutionary America. Cindy joins us to lead us through the story of Jane and William Spurgin, an everyday couple who lived in the North Carolina Backcountry during the American Revolution and who found themselves supporting different sides of the Revolution.

Feature Image: “Governor Tryon and the Regulators”, in the Bruce Cotten Image Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.

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 Colonial Williamsburg Innovation Studios.

Episode Summary

Headshot of Cynthia A. Kierner, author of The Tory's WifeOur guest, Cynthia A. Kierner, is a historian who specializes in early America, women and gender, and early Southern history. She is a professor at George Mason University and the author of The Tory’s Wife: A Woman and Her Family in Revolutionary America.

During our conversation about the Spurgins, Cindy reveals what we know about Jane and William Spurgin, their marriage, and their migration to the North Carolina backcountry; Details about life in the Carolina backcountry and the Regulator Movement that took place there between 1766 and 1771; And the petitions Jane Spurgin filed with the North Carolina General Assembly and what these petitions reveal to us about her and William’s politics and actions during the War for Independence.

What You’ll Discover

  • How William and Jane Spurgin ended up migrating to the North Carolina backcountry
  • Farms and labor in the North Carolina backcountry
  • Life in the North Carolina background during the American Revolution
  • The Regulator Movement
  • Regulators during the American Revolution
  • William Spurgin during the War for Independence
  • Jane Spurgin during the War for Independence
  • Punitive measures enacted against Loyalists in North Carolina
  • Jane and William Spurgin’s relationship after the war
  • Jane’s three petitions to the North Carolina Assembly
  • Jane and William’s families after the war

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In your opinion, what might have happened if Jane had joined William and supported the Loyalist cause? Do you think her life and marriage to William would have turned out differently?

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