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Why ‘Turn’ Could Turn Women’s History in Television Around

AMC is no stranger to historical dramas—one of the networks’ most recently picked up historical dramas, Hell on Wheels, has proven to be successful in its unusual Saturday time slot and was recently renewed for another season. AMC is hoping to strike gold again with the premiere of its latest show, Turn, the story of the first spy-ring set up during the American Revolution.

The show has premiered to mixed-to-positive reviews, but one aspect of the show is definitely generating interest with critics and fans: the history. Especially one particular aspect of American revolutionary history that is often overlooked: the role of women.

Heather Lind, who portrays spy Anna Strong in the series, noted in a recent interview that she believes the show will be the perfect opportunity to explore the role of women in the American Revolution. “You don’t hear women’s perspectives [in history] that much,” Lind said in the interview. “… and I think when they do, they’re [filtered through] the prism of male experience.”

Anna Strong is based on a real life member of the famous Culper spy ring.

It is believed that Strong would use her outdoors clothesline to give signals and messages to spies in the local area. She would do so by arranging her petticoats, handkerchiefs and other clothing in a certain way on the line. And she did all of this while being forced to house British soldiers in her own tavern, which doubled as her home. Although Lind’s character has yet to join the spy ring in the show, Turn has already touched on the potential dangers of her situation—a young woman living alone, forced to live in open quarters with British soldiers, who would often become drunk or abusive on a whim.

Strong eventually became a pair of eyes and ears for the spy ring due to her close proximity with the British soldiers and the fact that she—due to her status as a women in that time—was not considered to be politically involved. “The rules of society,” actress Lind noted, “allowed her to have access to places that men couldn’t necessarily have [.]”

Hopefully, the show’s creative team takes Lind’s personal message to heart and decides to explore how women in revolutionary America not only had political thoughts and beliefs, but actively participated in the revolution through both passive and aggressive actions.

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