The Blog of Toledo Lucas County Public Library
Women played many critical roles in the American Revolution and resulting War of Independence. From delegates’ wives to camp followers, to spies, women were a formidable force during the early days of the United States. Read along and discover some of the famed women who helped form our country.
Not just your average Abby! Abigail Adams was a leader in her own respect. Of course, married to a strong, intelligent man, she was able to use her skills to further the cause. Abigail is famously remembered for writing to her husband, John, while he was meeting with the Continental Congress, trying for form a government and reminding him to “remember the ladies” or they too, would have a revolution of their own. Abigail was the first women to officially be bestowed the title “First Lady of the United States of America” as she was married to our second president, John Adams. They were the first presidential family to reside in the White House.
Anna Strong was an important spy in the Culper Ring network. She utilized her husband’s tavern as her grounds of information in Setauket, NY. Anna lived up to her name, bravely passing signals to her counterparts through the laundry that she hung on her line that day. Anna was one of the first women to be used as a spy, since men were so conspicuous. It was less suspicious to get information from a lady spy. Read more about Anna’s story in these books and from the show, Turn!
Famed American Patriot, Betsy Ross is credited with sewing the first stars and stripes flag. Betsy’s grandson revealed the story of General George Washington calling upon Betsy to sew the flags. Upon seeing the idea that Washington and the Continental Congress had made, Betsy pushed for a five-pointed star instead of the six-pointed star they planned because its much faster to cut out a five pointed one. The idea was adopted, and the flags were flying. Sewing the flags was a very dangerous business for Betsy and her family. If the British caught them, it was considered treason against the crown.
The only female credited with military service during the American Revolution, Deborah Sampson disguised herself as man without detection for two years. She fought alongside soldiers, was part of the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment, lead an attack on a Tory house, captured 15 soldiers, dug trenches at Yorktown, and endured cannon fire. Sampson was struck on the forehead with a sword and received a gunshot wound to the thigh. To keep her gender a secret, she extracted the bullet herself. She was only discovered as a female after getting a serious illness, fever, and losing consciousness. She was dismissed with honors, married a farmer, and lived a relatively normal life. After her death, her husband petitioned Congress to pay the spouse’s wage of military service. Congress agreed that the Revolution “furnished no other similar example of female heroism, fidelity and courage,” and agreed to pay the sum.
Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton was the daughter of Continental Army General Schuyler. They lived in Upstate New York where Eliza was introduced to a young officer from the Caribbean, Alexander Hamilton. The two courted and married. Eliza supported her husband in many war efforts and diplomatic situations. She faced ridicule and slander during his affair, but she stood fast and never ceased to support her country.
Martha Custis Washington
Martha Washington, wife of General George Washington, was a steadfast, camp following, hard working woman. Martha was widowed at age 25, leaving her with two children and a large dowery for her next husband. George and Martha married two years later but never had children of their own, instead focusing on Martha’s two sons, their estate, and the new country. Martha was well known as the matriarch of the winter camps wherever Washington decided to hunker down for the season. Martha is said to have visited soldiers, hosted officers, and encouraged spouses. Martha was never titled as First Lady, as it was not coined until Abigail Adams tenure, but she was indeed the first, First Lady of the United States. I like to think of the quote “Behind every great man, there’s a great woman” when I think of Martha Washington.
Molly Pitcher (Mary Ludwick Hays or Margaret Corbin)
The story of Molly Pitcher is not solid fact. Historians are not sure if Molly was a real person or if she was folklore used to inspire others during the war. During the battle of Monmouth, a soldier’s wife, Molly, was running water to the soldiers to stay hydrated during the battle. She ran and ran with pitcher upon pitcher of water until her husband was wounded in battle. An artillery team needs a certain number of men to work a cannon. Molly stepped in his place, ran the artillery with the men, helping to win the battle.
Nanye’hi (Nancy Ward)
Nanye’hi got her name, Beloved Woman, when she took up her husband’s place in battle after he fell. A member of the Cherokee Nation, Nanye’hi was a strong, courageous woman. She frequently used her title to make her voice heard. The voice she advocated was of peace between the nations, not selling off Cherokee land, and introducing cattle farming to the Cherokee. Nanye’hi played many important roles during the American Revolution from solider to messenger.
In April 1777, during a torrential rain in the middle of the night, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington saddled her horse and rode 40 miles of unfamiliar country roads, awakening and rousing the men of her father’s militia. She urged them to quickly report to her father’s house to defend the munitions stores in Danbury, CT. She rode further and in nastier weather than famous Paul Revere. Go Sybil!
Not enough? Call or stop in to ask your librarian to Search Ohio for books about:
Margaret Catherine Moore Barry: Heroine who tied her toddler to the bedpost while she road around the county rousing the militia before the Battle of Cowpens. Because of her heroism, the Continental Army defeated the British.
Agent 355: Female spy credited with bringing in Major John Andre and Infamous Benedict Arnold.
Esther de Berdt Reed: Founder of the Ladies Association of Philadelphia who provided support and relief to George Washington’s troops.
Lucy Flucker Knox: Gave up wealth and fortune to marry General Henry Knox and support the American cause.
Lydia Darragh: A patriot spy during the British occupation of Philadelphia. She smuggled information to General Washington to warn of a British attack in 1777.
Mary Catherine Goddard: the only female to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Mercy Otis Warren: historian, poet, playwright and activist during the American Revolution.
Mary Alvis Draper: Opened her house and food stores to the volunteer militia as they gathered at Roxbury Neck to join the continental forces. All of her sons were bid to join the cause.
Nancy Hart: Georgia native, and patriot spy responsible for ousting numerous British Loyalists from Georgia.
Patience Wright: Quaker, sculptor, and patriot spy.
Prudence Cummings Wright: Founder of the only militia comprised of all females.