March is Women’s History Month. To celebrate, we’ve profiled three women who made a big impact on the history of tea. So sit back and give thanks for these three ladies while sipping your afternoon cuppa:
1) Catherine of Braganza
Today, we almost instantly associate tea with England. But it took one woman, Catherine of Braganza, to introduce the beverage to England before it could become so ubiquitous. Catherine, a Portuguese princess, married King Charles II of Great Britain in 1662. Per the BBC, When packing for her new life as Queen of England, Scotland, and Ireland, Catherine made sure to include loose-leaf tea. Tea was popular in Portugal among the upper class, and Catherine enjoyed sipping it daily. However, tea was not so prevalent in England yet, and was used more as a medicinal herb than a social drink. That changed when Catherine arrived. As the public yearned to emulate their new queen, Catherine’s social tea drinking habit became more popular, and we can certainly give her some credit for England’s major tea habit today.
2) Penelope Barker
The Sons of Liberty get all the attention in the history books when it comes to tea and the American Revolution, but Penelope Barker deserves some recognition too. Barker organized the first ever recorded women’s political demonstration in America when she got 50 women in Edenton, North Carolina together to protest the 1773 Tea Act. The women signed a resolution to boycott British tea, using their buying power to protest Great Britain’s unfair taxation and the British East India Tea Company’s monopoly on the tea trade. In their resolution they stated, “We, the aforesaid Ladys will not promote ye wear of any manufacturer from England until such time that all acts which tend to enslave our Native country shall be repealed.” The event was called the Edenton Tea Party, and was widely mocked in London where a political cartoon depicted the participants as bad mothers and loose women:
3) Ruth Campbell Bigelow
A woman founded Bigelow Tea, one of the most recognizable tea brands in the country. Ruth Campbell Bigelow developed her version of the perfect cuppa in 1945. She blended black tea with orange rind and spices in her kitchen. It sparked “constant comment” among her friends, and when it became the first product of the Bigelow Tea Company, that was its name. The brew is one of many varieties that is still available today. The company operates out of its Fairfax, Connecticut headquarters, generating about $150 million in sales per year. Three generations after Ruth founded Bigelow, it continues to be a family-run business, with Cindi Bigelow in charge as President and CEO.