Sarah Snell Tompkins

Sarah Snell Tompkins

1759 – 1837

Sarah, six months pregnant, married Nathaniel Tompkins, a young farmer and a part-time soldier in 1781. Years later as a widow, she applied for his Revolutionary War pension and received it. Sarah is one of Little Compton’s few 18thcentury women whose own words speak for her today.

[Nathaniel was] much in the service before as well as after our said marriage…. I had two children born after said marriage and before the close of the war. After our marriage, when my husband was away in the service I had to do, and did, many things, out of doors, that women in this town think they cannot do. We suffered great privation at that time.

Sarah dictated her testimony and signed her name with an X. She lived on a 12-acre farm on Tompkins Lane inherited from Nathaniel’s father. It had the unique feature of three cranberry bogs. As a working-class woman, Sarah did not have the luxury of servants and managed by herself during her husband’s absences. She had 13 children, one of whom was murdered. After Nathaniel’s death, Sarah’s single daughter Permilla was her sole source of support. Neighbors testified that they lived in poverty.

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Outdoor exhibit panel from the 2020 special exhibition, The Little Compton Women’s History Project.

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