Loyalist Women in New Brunswick, 1783-1827

Exploring the Lives of Loyalist Women

As many as 100,000 Loyalists left the United States as a result of the American Revolutionary War. At least 35,000 went to Nova Scotia, the nearest British-held territory. Many of the Loyalists were women. Refugees of a bitterly-fought war, they, along with their fathers, husbands, and children, shared the hardships of pioneer life and helped to lay the foundations for a second nation in North America.

While the activities of prominent Loyalist men have long been of interest to historians, the experiences of Loyalist women have, until recently, received less attention. The emergence of women’s history as a new field of study in the 1960s brought a welcome focus on the neglected majority of the colonial population. There is still much research left to do to fill in the whole story. Fortunately, Loyalist women left behind a rich documentary legacy on which we can draw.

This website features the letters and other primary documents relating to Loyalist women in colonial New Brunswick, including three generations of women in the family of Edward and Mary Winslow, who settled in New Brunswick in 1785.

Our letter writers are sisters Sarah (1745-1824) and Penelope (1743-1810) and their nieces (the daughters of Edward Winslow and his wife Mary), Mary (1779-1843), Penelope (1783-1838), and Hannah (1788?-1868). It also includes 8 letters from Edward Winslow (1746-1815) to his wife Mary Symonds (1754-1808) written in 1784 and 1785 as the family was getting settled in British North America.

Also featured here are short biographical sketches and primary documents of five other women — Deborah Cottnam, Polly Dibblee, Sarah Frost, Hannah Ingraham, and Sylvia Johnson — whose stories reveal the daunting challenges that faced the Loyalist refugees as they struggled to re-establish life as they had known it in their former homeland.

Primary Documents

This collection includes letters and legal records relating to women in three generations of the Winslow family.

It also features a range of sources — letters, diaries, memoirs, poems, and newspaper records — of five Loyalist women in colonial New Brunswick.

Historical Context

Enslaved or free, immigrant or indigenous, rich or poor: women in the eighteenth century were subject to conditions that shaped their lives in ways not experienced by men.

Explore the world of Loyalist women through essays, images, and a select bibliography.

For Teachers & Students

Browse learning resources designed to promote historical thinking. Students are encouraged to use primary and secondary sources to explore the lives of eighteenth-century Loyalist women.