Of Cherries and the American Revolution


Fireworks over the Statue of Liberty (photo credit CNN)

This week we celebrated July 4th as the birthday of the United States of America. For many celebrating its Cherry pies, hot-dogs and fireworks and the United States’ complex history lends the day to varied significance for people from all walks of life.  We wanted to spend a moment reflecting on the lives of the women who lived at the time of the American Revolution in this vast land. The musical “1776”, the year of the American independence depicts John Adams’ efforts to persuade his colleagues to vote for independence from Britain by signing  the Declaration of Independence.  There is a scene based on letters written between John Adams and his wife and closest adviser, Abigail Adams, where John requests Abigail to organize women to make Saltpeter, a key ingredient in gunpowder.  Abigail agrees in exchange for crafting pins which she plans on using to bribe the many woman auxiliaries she had been organizing!

 Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams (1744-1818)

As it turns out, the efforts of many women, greatly contributed towards the success of the American Revolution and its war efforts. It was wives, sisters, mothers and daughters who contributed to keeping the economic engine running, thus enabling the revolution. While men were off fighting, women were tending farms and livestock, keeping the economy going, outside of the need for imports from the British Empire.  Women of all color became the backbone of the revolution as they not only provided food but also many other crucial services that enabled the war efforts.  Women became nurses and cared for wounded in hospitals and the front lines by becoming “camp-followers”, and traveled with army units to provide the crucial services for a camp. There were women who became part of the “Home-Spun” movement and boycotted British textiles. They spun wool into fleece, and wove the cloth for those uniforms, collected plants to dye the cloth and sew the uniforms. Women also banded together and raised money to aid the war efforts by holding artisan markets to sell crafts and donating their personal assets. It seems that even before the revolution, a family’s prosperity depended more on these household crafts and their contribution to the economy than the profession of the head of household.  

 womens role in the american revolution

Credit: Hulton Archive Hulton Archive Getty Images

The stories of economic independence, wars, revolutions and independence are intrinsically tied with the efforts of women the world over. As the famed NYT reporter Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn point out correctly, in their book of the same name, women hold up “Half the Sky”.  As evidenced by their well-researched book and countless others, women's contribution to the economy is under reported and not accurately accounted for especially as women also provide crucial services at home and in the shadow economy. It is a well documented fact that women entrepreneurship is curtailed by the lack of access to capital and formal financial institutions across the globe, especially as women are not deemed “credit-worthy” due to their lack of financial assets. Women face discrimination in the formal employment sectors and are underpaid in comparison to men for similar jobs. As per a report by the McKinsey Global Institute, the global GDP could increase by USD twelve trillion by 2025 by advancing women’s equality!


Global Shokunin's women artisans from NYC, Rwanda, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Ethiopia

It is also well documented that when women participate in the economy, it accelerates the growth rate of the economy as compared to men. One of the reasons may be that women tend to invest in children’s education, families and communities at a higher rate than men. It’s an economic point of view that is part of the Global Shokunin ethos.  At Global Shokunin, we are striving to achieve gender equality by empowering women and and enabling women artisans across the globe. We currently work with artisan groups and non-profits from ten different countries in advancing women’s participation in the global economy.  Revolutions come through self-sufficiency and with your help, we are helping to foster the quiet revolution of women entrepreneurship.

 Cherry Chutney

In honor of the American Independence Day, here is our very own Cherry chutney recipe with pineapples and cayenne pepper. The cherry tree has become such an important part of the American cultural heritage that no president has been spared from being featured in political cartoons and comics featuring the virtue of honesty, just like George Washington confessed to his father upon damaging their cherry tree. In a demonstration of American ideal and Washington’s legacy, the cherry tree myth was invented by Mason Locke Weems, George Washington’s first biographer, to highlight his personal virtues and the foundational role cherry trees played in his character-development. This easy cherry chutney recipe is seasonal, sweet and has a little kick of cayenne pepper so if you are going to you’re your cherries, make a big batch of this chutney/dip and put them in old-fashioned mason jars. 


Recipe By Nupur Arora


Ripe cherries pitted and chopped: 1 1/3 cup

Pineapple chopped: ½ cup

Sugar: ¼ cup

Sea salt: ¼ tsp

Cayenne pepper: ¼ tsp

Ginger: grated, ½ tsp

Cloves: 2

Lime/lemon juice: 1 whole

Cumin: ¼ tsp (optional)

Put all the above, except lime juice, in a heavy bottom saucepan. Cover and allow to cook on medium till the cherries melt down and reach a jam like consistency (about 12 to 15 minutes)

Remove from heat, stir and muddle remaining pineapple chunks to get an even texture. Squeeze in the lime juice. Allow to cool completely before filling in mason jars.

And as you dip your chips or spoon the Cherry Chutney over ice-cream, think of all the women across the world that hold up half the sky and bring sweetness to your life!


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