The Amazing Women of the Revolution

Abigail Adams – she worked the family farm while John Adams was away in Philadelphia. She corresponded with John continually as well as other family members, stressing the importance of independence. She was an advocate for education for girls as well as boys. She, herself was taught to read and write. She wrote letters to her husband that were filled with philosophical discussions that centered around rights and many believe she was quite influential with her husband.  She called for equal rights for women in the Declaration, although her concerns were never included.

Molly Pitcher – when her husband was killed in battle, she took up his post.  Her real name – Mary Hays McCauly.  Her husband was with the 7th Pennsylvania regiment. His job was to load the cannon. She would bring pitchers of water to the soldiers to drink and to cool the cannons and soak the rammer rag. When her husband fell during the battle, she is rumored to have picked up the rammer and continued his job.  There are many stories that surround this tale = that George Washington saw her and commented on her bravery, that her husband had not died, but was wounded, that she helped her husband fire the cannon. We may never know the true story.

Lydia Darragh – spied on the British who were in her home and delivered word of their plans to the patriots. Her home was across from where General Howe was situated in Philadelphia. In December of 1777, British soldiers took up residence in her home for private conferences.  Her family was instructed to go to bed early so the men could have their conference. She listened at the keyhole and learned of a secret attack in a few nights on the American army at White Marsh. She crept back to bed and feigned sleep when the men knocked on the door to tell her they were leaving. Finally getting up, she let the soldiers out and locked her doors.  She woke early, told her husband she was going for more flour, and said she was going to Frankfort to get it. She then went to General Howe to get his permission to leave the city to obtain the flour.  Of course he let her go. She went to the mill at Frankfort, then while her flour was being filled, she headed toward the American army. She met with Lieutenant-Colonel Craig and gave him the information. She then returned home after picking up her flour.  The next day when the British left, she waited. The British did not succeed and came back to question her about her family’s whereabouts. She could honestly tell them no one had left the house. They believed she heard nothing because they thought her asleep that night. Her secret was safe.

Margaret Corbin – first woman to get a pension because of the wounds she suffered. When her husband died at his post at the Battle of Monmouth, she took over his post.  He was a gunner, or a matross. She was nicknamed Captain Molly.  She started out as a camp follower – a woman who followed her husband into battle.  Her efforts were noticed by General Washington and he gave her a lieutenant’s commission for her valued service.

Nancy Hart – She was born in North Carolina but moved to Georgia with her family. She was tall and leanly built. Even the local Indians had a respect for her, calling her Wahatche which means “war woman”. She had no problem fighting for what she believed in or fighting against those who did her a wrong. While her husband served as a lieutenant with the Georgia militia, she was left at home to defend her home and protect her family. She would disguise herself as a simpleton and wander into British camps, gathering information.

Esther Reed (1746-1780) She was born in England, but fell in love with a young man from Trenton, NJ. When they married they moved to Philadelphia. When her husband joined Washington as an aid, she remained at home to care for their two small children. She was the head of Relief Association of Philadelphia. She helped raise over $200,000. When the British took over Philadelphia, she packed up her family and took refuge. When the British left Philadelphia, she returned and so did her husband after serving well for Washington.  Finally when the war was over, she returned to Philadelphia, her husband being given the job of Governor of Pennsylvania.

Nancy Ward – called “Beloved Woman” by the Cherokee, she was born into the Cherokee nation and her Cherokee name was Nanyehi.  When her first husband died, she married Bryant Ward (her father’s brother), who was a South Carolina colonist. She warned the colonists of an attack by her cousin. After the war, she became an ambassador between the Cherokee and the whites. She helped negotiate the first treaty between the whites and Cherokees – the Treaty of Hopewell.

Phyllis Wheatley – she was the first African American poet. She was also the first African American woman to be published. George Washington praised her works. She was born a slave and purchased by the Wheatley family. She did not gain her freedom until the Wheatleys died. She was taught to read and write by the Wheatley children.  Her poem “To his Excellency George Washington” which caused Washington to summon her to his home and thank her for the poem.

Sybil Ludington – her father was Colonel Ludington. On April 26th, 1777, when the British were attacking Danbury, Connecticut, she volunteered to warn the countryside. She traveled 40 miles through the night and during a rainstorm showing for the militia to form. The troops kept the British from advancing.

Betsy Ross – married five times, she is known as the woman who sewed the first flag of our country. She was an upholsterer in Philadelphia when Washington came to visit. He requested a flag be made to symbolize the new country and she complied. She would sew late into the evening and often times in her room so the British soldiers would not know. She had to be very careful so neighbors who were Loyalists did not report her the British.  (see the posting on Betsy and her home in Philadelphia if you want more information on this great lady).

Mercy Otis Warren – wrote the first history of the American Revolution (she was there) – a political correspondent and propagandist. Before the war she wrote poems and plays that attacked the royal authority. When the Constitution was presented, she wrote a pamphlet calling for the Bill of Rights to be added – asking for the basic rights of individuals.  In 1805, she wrote the first history of the American Revolution called “History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution”.

Elizabeth Burgin- helped soldiers escape from a prison on a ship in New York harbor.  During the revolution, many prisoners were held captive on ships because it was cheaper than building structures on land.  The prisoners were treated badly. One ship, the HMS Jersey was anchored in Wallabout Bay. There was not enough food or water and yellow fever and small pox killed many. She visited the ships as often as she could bringing them food and cheer.  An American officer saw her visiting the ships and asked her to deliver a message to the men about an escape. During the winter of 1779-80, the water was frozen and she helped many escape by walking across the frozen water. She helped more than 200 men escape. The British offered a reward of 200 pounds and she had to flee her home. She was given a pension by the Continental Congress for her bravery.

Emily Geiger – delivered a message by eating the paper one and remembering the message.  She became a messenger for General Greene. They needed someone to carry messages from Greene to General Sumter. She volunteered because she knew the countryside so well and did not think she would be stopped. She was intercepted and held prisoner. So she would not be found out as a spy, she ate the message after memorizing it. Since they could not prove she was carrying any message, they let her go. She hurried to General Sumter and delivered her message verbally.

Deborah Sampson – disguised as a man, she served in the war for years – she enlisted using her brother’s name. She cut her hair and bound her chest. If not for a life-threatening injury her identity would not have been discovered. The doctor who mended her sent her to Washington who gave her an honorable discharge.  After the war, she was summoned to the capital where Congress gave her a pension.

Martha Washington – preferred the quiet life of a planter’s wife. She enjoyed being at home with her children, but with her husband being called to lead the Continental Army, she had no other choice but to put aside her wishes and support his cause. George thought she would be a target for Lord Dunmore, so he urged her to leave Mount Vernon and visit family. She joined her husband often while he was in camp. Whenever he was camped for the winter, she would be there to assist the soldiers. She would bring them new socks and blankets. She helped raise money for the army and often spoke of independence to others. For others, she was a symbol of independence and would attend social functions to help raise money for the cause. Like many women during the war, she had to bury a son – Jacky, who died in 1781 of camp fever.

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