Showing posts with label Women in the American Revolution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Women in the American Revolution. Show all posts


Women's Rights After the American Revolution

drawing of the many jobs women performed at home

Status of Women in the New United States

In the American colonies it was not uncommon for women to pursue various occupations, such as printers, innkeepers, merchants and teachers. Women were excluded from political activities, but a few women, like Mercy Otis Warren and Abigail Adams, entered the political arena as public figures. Were women always treated fairly?

Remember the Ladies
On March 31, 1776 Abigail Adams wrote a celebrated letter to husband John, who was in Philadelphia serving in the Continental Congress, which would produce the Declaration of Independence three months later. In an age when women were seen as strictly domestic beings, the letter shows Abigail's boldness and insight as she urged her husband Remember the Ladies, to grant women more rights, as he helped shape the new national government.


Sarah Wentworth Morton

Massachusett poet who was the first to use Native Americans and African slaves as subject matter in her poetry

18th Century Poet and Writer

Sarah Wentworth Morton, poet of the American Revolution, is remembered for the long, sentimental, narrative poems in which she considers the make-up of the new nation, inter-racial relationships and heroism, both male and female. In her own time she was renowned for her poetry about the virtues of freedom. Though too invested in the idea of submission to be a feminist, she had the status and role of women very much at heart.

Sarah Apthorp was born in Boston, Massachusetts to the wealthy Boston merchant, James Apthorp and Sarah Wentworth Apthorp. She was baptized at King's Chapel on August 29, 1759 (the exact date of her birth is unknown). Her family eventually numbered eleven children.


Rebecca Young

Maker of the First United States Flag

Grand Union Flag stitched by Rebecca Young
Image: Grand Union Flag
Stitched by Rebecca Young

Rebecca Flower Young was a Philadelphia flag maker during the American Revolution. She has been credited with making a flag that became known as the Grand Union Flag, which is considered our first national flag. The flag she sewed had thirteen red and white stripes to symbolize the unity of the American colonies and the British Union Jack in the upper left hand corner. This flag was in use from late 1775 until mid 1777, making Young one of the earliest verified makers of the Flag of the United States.


Agent 355

artist's drawing of Agent 355 of the Culper Spy Ring in Revolutionary War New York City

Female Spy in the American Revolution

A group of spies known as the Culper Spy Ring operated from 1778 to 1780 in an intricate network from British-occupied New York City to Setauket, Long Island, north to Connecticut, and then west to George Washington's headquarters at Newburgh, New York. Agent 355 was the code name of a female spy in the Culper Ring. Her real identity is unknown. The spy network was particularly effective in gathering valuable information from careless conversations between the British and their sympathizers.

In 1778, Benjamin Tallmadge, a young American officer who was General George Washington's new intelligence chief, organized an ingenious top-secret network of spies. Washington ordered that not even he himself should know who they were. For recruits, Tallmadge turned to old friends and acquaintances in his hometown of Setauket, Long Island.


Betty Washington

mistress of Kenmore and sister of General George Washington

Sister of President George Washington

Betty Washington (1733–1797) was the first and only daughter to live to adulthood of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington, and the younger Sister of President George Washington, who was born in 1732. Betty and George grew up at Ferry Farm, across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, Virginia.

George Washington Parke Custis, grandson of Martha Washington from her first marriage, described Betty as...
a majestic-looking woman, and so strikingly like the brother [George Washington], that it was a matter of frolic to throw a cloak around her, and placing a military hat on her head, such was her amazing resemblance, that on her appearance, battalions would have presented arms and senates rise to do homage to the chief...
She was born Elizabeth Washington on June 20, 1733, at Little Hunting Creek (later named Mt. Vernon) in northern Virginia. In addition to George, Betty had three younger brothers: Samuel, John Augustine and Charles and two half brothers by her father's first marriage, Lawrence and Augustine Jr.

When Betty was five years old, Augustine Washington moved his family to the 600-acre Ferry Farm near Fredericksburg, for the community life and the educational advantages it offered. This was one of several farms owned by her parents. Her mother had brought several properties to the marriage as her dowry.

Here the Washington children grew up and received their education - Betty at a "Dame School" and George under the tutelage of Parson Marye. Betty and George were especially close because of their nearness of age and their similarity in personality and character.

After her father's death in 1743, life became difficult for Betty and the family because of their financial situation. In 1754, her brother George moved to Mount Vernon while their mother, Mary Ball Washington, stayed on at the farm until 1772, when she moved to Fredericksburg to be closer to Betty.

In 1750, at age 16, Betty married Fielding Lewis, a wealthy and prominent businessman in the nearby village of Fredericksburg. Her wealth and social status increased, and she immediately became stepmother to two young children from Fielding's first marriage.

Fielding Lewis was born July 7, 1725, at Warner Hall in Gloucester County, Virginia, to John and Frances Fielding Lewis, the third of seven children. His uncle Robert Lewis was the grandfather of famed explorer Meriwether Lewis.

Lewis owned and leased ships that carried tobacco, produce, wood products and European-made goods to the West Indies, then returned to Virginia with fruit, sugar and salt, rum and occasionally slaves. Profits from trade were good because Fredericksburg was close to the wealth of the Virginia Piedmont.

After the wedding, Betty moved into a large brick house in Fredericksburg where she and Fielding lived together for the next 25 years. In 1751, Betty gave birth to their first child, Fielding Jr., followed by ten more children over a twenty-year period. Only six children survived to adulthood.


Kitty Floyd

portrait of President James Madison at age 32

James Madison's First Love

Image: James Madison

Born in 1751, James Madison was the oldest among the eleven children of James Madison Sr., the wealthiest man in Orange County, Virginia. Even as a child, Madison had been unusually studious. As a young boy, he left his father's plantation to attend an advanced school in a neighboring county. After five years studying astronomy, French, logic, mathematics and philosophy, he returned to his family's plantation, Montpelier, to be tutored for two more years by a local minister.

James Madison
By Charles Willson Peale, 1783
Oval portrait miniature given to Kitty Floyd as a pin in a velvet-lined container.
From the Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division.


Mary Dowd

painting of the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge in eastern North Carolina during the Revolutionary War

North Carolina Loyalist

Image: Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge

"King George and Broadswords!" shouted Loyalist forces as they charged toward Moores Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776. Just beyond the bridge nearly a thousand North Carolina Patriots waited quietly with cannons and muskets poised to fire.

Everyone who lived in the colonies was part of the war for independence. North Carolina women contributed and suffered much on both sides. At that time, the population of North Carolina was mostly rural. Men lived with their wives and families on farms. Like women everywhere in those days, all the women in the household had established roles within the family. A woman's life centered on her family and home - cooking, washing clothes, sewing, caring for children and the sick, and tending gardens.


Anna Maria Lane

drawing of a Revolutionary War soldier preparing to fire a cannon

Woman Soldier in the Revolutionary War

Anna Maria Lane is best known as Virginia's only female soldier in the Revolutionary War. Anna Maria followed her husband, when he joined the Continental Army in 1776. Although many women worked as cooks or laundresses at the military camps, Anna Maria dressed in men's clothing and performed the duties of a soldier. John and Anna Maria fought in battles in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

The Lanes were with New England troops under General Israel Putnam when he linked up with General George Washington's army near Philadelphia after the Battle of Brandywine.


Anna Smith Strong

Member of the Culper Spy Ring

map showing the routes taken by the Culper Spy Ring to forward information to General George Washington
Image: Map Showing the Routes Taken by the Culper Spy Ring - Long Island, New York

The British occupied New York City in August 1776, and the city would remain a British stronghold for the duration of the Revolutionary War. The Culper Ring, also known as the Setauket Spy Ring, was a group of operatives whose purpose was General George Washington aware of the movements of the British in New York City and Long Island.

Some credit Nathan Hale's capture and execution with having launched the Culper Spy Ring. Nathan Hale, a young Patriot, volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission to the city, but the British captured Hale carrying drawings of their fortifications in his shoe and hanged him on September 22, 1776. He is best remembered for his last words: "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country." Hale's death illustrated the grave dangers inherent in spying for the Patriots.


Ann Bates

Ann Bates, spy for the British Army during the Revolutionary War

Spy for the British during the Revolutionary War

Ann Bates, a schoolteacher in Philadelphia, was married to Joseph Bates, a British soldier and artillery repairman in General Henry Clinton's army. In 1778, her husband joined the British troops who evacuated Philadelphia and marched to New York City. Claiming to be a patriot, Bates passed through the American lines and followed the army to New York.

Bates felt it was her duty to seek out information on illegal colonial activity and report back to her husband's superiors. From her husband she learned to identify the weaponry and report on important military information such as the numbers of cannons, men and supplies.

In New York, Major John Andre was appointed an aide to General Henry Clinton, the new commander-in-chief. Clinton had confidence in Andre's resourcefulness and discretion, and assigned Andre the coordination of British intelligence activities in the New York area.

Under the cover name 'Mrs. Barnes,' Ann Bates became a Loyalist spy in Major Andre's spy ring. Andre sent her to American army headquarters at White Plains, New York, where she listened in on conversations, checked gun emplacements and assessed the strength of the American units. She also taught other spies how to locate safe houses as they made their way back to British-held territory.

Bates was brazen enough to walk into the headquarters of General George Washington in White Plains. She later wrote:
I had the opportunity of going through their whole army remarking at the same time the strength and situation of each brigade, and the number of cannon, with their situation and weight of ball each cannon was charged with.
At that time women were allowed to come and go where they pleased because military authorities did not think that women could comprehend the significance of what they saw. This particular thinking gave Bates the ability to wander throughout American camps, recording vital information concerning equipment and logistics. Her information was accurate and her missions were dangerous.


Bathsheba Spooner

image of the hanging of Bathsheba Spooner, who conspired to murder her husband after she became pregnant by her teenaged lover

First Woman Executed in the New United States

Bathseba Ruggles was born February 13, 1745, to Timothy Ruggles, a very wealthy man who had held some of the most prominent positions in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Bathsheba was said to be her father's favorite child, was educated well and had everything money could buy. Joshua Spooner was born in 1741.

Ruggles, a lawyer and chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas in Worcester, Massachusetts, was a strong-willed and determined man and an avowed Loyalist (British supporter). Under public censure for his refusal to sign the Stamp Act protest as a Massachusetts delegate to the 1765 Stamp Act Congress, Ruggles may have arranged the marriage of his daughter Bathsheba to Joshua Spooner.

At any rate, on January 15, 1766, Bathsheba Ruggles married Joshua Spooner, twenty-five. The son of a wealthy Boston merchant, Spooner was a well-to-do and well-connected farmer in Brookfield, Massachusetts. They had their first child, Elizabeth, on April 8, 1767; three more followed between 1770 and 1775, but one died in infancy.

At a time when class distinctions were important and social status was determined by family lineage, both Bathsheba and her husband were scions of prominent families of the colonial aristocracy, raised to a life of wealth and privilege. In these years immediately before the Revolution they were living in what was considered an elegant two-story house in Brookfield, and were considered wealthy by their neighbors.

When the American Revolution began, Timothy Ruggles remained a Loyalist and was ultimately banished from Massachusetts, and the hatred generated by this extended to members of his family. He was forced to flee to Canada in 1774 and his massive estates were confiscated.

Joshua Spooner supported the Patriots, while Bathsheba shared her father's views. This caused much dissention in the Spooner marriage, and when Bathsheba wanted to see her father in Canada, Joshua forbade it.

It was becoming common knowledge that the Spooner marriage was not a happy one, and that Bathsheba had developed what she was to characterize as an "utter aversion" towards her husband. The reasons for the rift are not fully known, but records indicate that Joshua Spooner was frequently drunk and sometimes physically abused his wife. Bathsheba, on the other hand was independent, strongwilled, and impetuous.

When thirty-two-year-old Bathsheba Spooner met Ezra Ross in the spring of 1777, he was a sixteen-year-old soldier in the Continental Army, who had served under General George Washington for a year. Ross was walking home from Washington's winter camp in Morristown, New Jersey, when he fell ill with fever and was nursed back to health by Bathsheba Spooner.


Sarah Pollard Pendleton

judge, politician and Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress

Wife of Virginia Statesman Edmund Pendleton

Sarah Pollard was born on May 4, 1725, daughter of Joseph and Priscilla Pollard. Edmund Pendleton was was born into the Virginia colony's elite on September 9, 1721, in Caroline County, Virginia. However, his father's early death and the subsequent loss of the family's property left Pendleton to shift for himself. His upper-class origins eventually served him well, but his early years were ones of struggle.


Martha Jefferson Randolph

portrait of the daughter of Thomas Jefferson and wife of the Governor of Virginia

Daughter of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson

Image: Martha Jefferson Randolph
Thomas Sully, Artist
Date unknown

Martha Washington Jefferson was born on September 27, 1772, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, and Martha Wayles Jefferson. She was born at Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia, and was named in honor of her mother and of Martha Washington, wife of George Washington. Her nickname was Patsy.

When Patsy was ten years old her mother died, and over the following years she became increasingly close to her father. From age 12 to 17, Patsy and her younger sister Polly lived in Paris with her father while he served as U.S. Minister to France. Jefferson enrolled the girls at Abbaye Royale de Panthemont convent school, after receiving assurances that Protestant students were exempt from religious instruction. After Patsy expressed a desire to convert to Catholicism, Jefferson quickly withdrew them from the school.


Theodosia Burr

The Hermitage, New Jersey home of Theodosia Prevost, where she married Aaron Burr
Theodosia Burr's Home, the Hermitage

Wife of Vice President Aaron Burr

In 1763 Theodosia Bartow married James Marcus Prevost, a British Army officer with whom she had five children. They lived in Bergen County, New Jersey, in a home they named the Hermitage. In 1776 James Marcus was called back to active duty in the Revolutionary War, while Theodosia tried to keep their home from being confiscated by the American government. Meanwhile she began a relationship with a young American officer named Aaron Burr. After her husband's death in 1781, 35-year-old Theodosia Prevost, with five children, married 25-year-old Aaron Burr.

Childhood and Early Years
Theodosious Bartow died in a carriage accident in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, in 1746 at age 34, while his wife Ann was pregnant with their only child, Theodosia Bartow. For five years Ann raised Theodosia as a single parent, apparently partially in Shrewsbury and partially in New York City where several of her sisters and brothers were living.


Martha Bell

granite monument to Revolutionary War heroine, Martha McFarland McGee Bell of North Carolina

North Carolina Revolutionary War Heroine

Image: Martha Bell Monument
In 1928, Bell was honored with a granite monument at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park which reads:
Loyal Whig, Enthusiastic Patriot, Revolutionary Heroine.

Martha McFarland was born in 1735 in Alamance County, North Carolina. In 1759, Martha married Colonel John McGee, a prosperous farmer and trader who came to North Carolina in 1750. They had five children: Jane (1760-1835), Susannah (1761-1843), John (1763-1836), William (1768-1817) and Andrew McGee (d. 1819). The McGees were among the wealthiest people in the county.

John McGee died in 1773, but left his family well provided for. Martha carried on his business and farming, just as he had been doing. His farming operations were quite extensive for a new settler, and in the store, he bartered a great deal, by exchanging goods for deer skins, furs, flaxseed, beeswax and such items.


Esther Reed

portrait of Esther De Berdt Reed, American Patriot and founder of the Ladies Association of Philadelphia

Great American Heroine

Esther De Berdt was born October 22, 1746, in London, England, one of two children of Martha Symon De Berdt and Dennis De Berdt, an English businessman who traded with the colonists in Delaware and Massachusetts. The fair-haired, attractive young Esther was a lively talker and a lover of books. The De Berdt children grew up near the Houses of Parliament, in Artillery Court, with summers spent in Enfield.

 Arriving in Philadelphia from London as a young bride, Esther De Berdt Reed had by 1774 become a zealous American Patriot. The Ladies Association she founded made shirts for the soldiers of the Continental Army, and became for the model for similar drives in Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia.


Kerenhappuch Norman Turner

monument to the heroine of Guilford Court House

Heroine of the Battle of Guilford Court House

Image: Statue of Kerenhappuch Norman Turner
Guilford Court House National Military Park

Historians are undecided about the exact birth date of Kerenhappuch Norman, but it is assumed that she was born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, in about 1715. She was the daughter of a well known tobacco planter, Isaac Norman, Jr. and his wife, the former Frances Courtney.

Kerenhappuch Norman married James Turner, the son of a prominent family and also a tobacco planter, in Spotsylvania County in 1733. Deed records show that following the wedding, Isaac Norman gave 50 pounds and 100 acres of his home plantation to his daughter and her new husband.


Nancy Morgan Hart

Georgia Heroine of the Revolutionary War

painting of Nancy Hart holding British soldiers at gunpoint until help arrived

Nancy Morgan Hart
Painting by Louis S. Glanzman
According to Revolutionary lore, Nancy Hart famously outwitted a group of Tories who had invaded her home. She served them liquor, and once they were drunk, filched their weapons, which she used to shoot two of the men and hold the rest captive until help arrived.

Nancy Morgan was born in the Yadkin River Valley of North Carolina in 1753. She grew up to be a very tall, muscular woman with red hair, blue eyes and a smallpox-scarred face. Nancy was feisty and had a quick temper. Local Cherokees referred to her as war woman. She was illiterate but ran her household well and was knowledgeable about frontier survival. She was a skilled herbalist and an excellent shot.

Nancy Morgan married Benjamin Hart, and moved with her husband to northern Georgia. She was a domineering wife. Many remembered that she, rather than her husband, ran the Hart household, which eventually included six sons and two daughters.


Emily Geiger

Marker commemorating Emily Geiger's brave ride to deliver a message

South Carolina Heroine of the Revolutionary War

Emily Geiger Monument
Heroine of the Revolutionary War
Captured while delivering secret message
From Gen Greene to Gen Sumter
Held captive at Fort Granby
July 3, 1781

During the Revolutionary War, the Carolina colonies were invaded by the British in 1781. Patriot Generals Nathanael Greene, Thomas Sumter, Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee, and Francis Marion were waging an all-out campaign to rid South Carolina of the British.

General Greene had spent 28 days trying to capture the fort at Ninety-Six, South Carolina, but had been forced to retreat when he discovered that British General Lord Francis Rawdon was coming with reinforcements. General Greene felt that Rawdon's men were vulnerable to attack, but knew he lacked the manpower to win the skirmish.

If General Greene could get a message to General Sumter, the two units could join forces and attack General Rawdon en masse. Two things made getting such a message to General Sumter very difficult. Seventy miles of difficult terrain - some of it a dense marsh - separated the two armies, and the area was a hotbed of British sympathizers.

General Greene hesitated to order any of his men - who were exhausted and weak from lack of proper food - to undertake such a ride. So he called for a civilian volunteer to carry the message. But no one could be found willing to run the risk of traversing a section of country that was infested with revengeful Tories.

About two miles from where General Greene had camped with his weary and disheartened troops, stood the residence of a well-to-do farmer named John Geiger, a loyal and outspoken patriot, but an invalid and unable to bear arms for his country. His eighteen-year-old daughter Emily was an ardent patriot as well.

Emily Geiger overheard her father and one of his friends discussing Greene's dilemma and his call for a courier. Without saying anything to her father, she left the house and went to General Greene's camp, asking to speak to the general personally. She bravely offered to carry his message to General Sumter.


Martha Bratton

home of Revolutionary War heroine Martha Bratton

Patriot and Heroine of the Revolutionary War

Image: Historic Brattonsville
Revolutionary War historic site that includes the log cabin home of Martha and William Bratton in South Carolina

Martha Robertson was born about 1750 in Rowan County, North Carolina. Not much is known about her early life, but her acts of heroism during the Revolutionary War are very well known.

Martha Robertson married William Bratton, a Pennsylvanian of Irish parentage, who lived in the York District of South Carolina, just below the North Carolina border. In the troubled times that preceded the American Revolution, the Brattons' courage and deportment gave them great influence among their neighbors and friends.

The year 1780 was a dark period for the patriots of South Carolina, the year the British invaded their state. The city of Charleston surrendered on May 12, and General Benjamin Lincoln and the his army became prisoners of war. After this initial success, the British secured the important post of Ninety-Six; another contingent scoured the countryside bordering on the Savannah; and Lord Cornwallis passed the Santee and took the town of Georgetown.

Armed garrisons were posted throughout the state, which lay at the mercy of the enemy. Sir Henry Clinton boasted that here at least, the American Revolution was ended. A proclamation was issued, denouncing those who would fight them, and offering pardon to those who would acknowledge them and accept British protection. Many of the people, believing resistance was hopeless, took the offered protection, while those who refused absolute submission were exiled or imprisoned.

But the colonists of York District of South Carolina never gave their paroles, nor accepted protection as British subjects; preferring resistance to subjection. A few individuals sought refuge in North Carolina. They were followed by the Whigs of Chester and other districts bordering on that state, who fled from the British troops as they marched into the upper country.

Those patriot exiles soon organized themselves in companies, and under their gallant leaders, General Thomas Sumter, Colonel William Bratton and others, began to collect on the frontier, and to harass the enemy by sudden unexpected attacks. At the time, the state was unable to feed, clothe or arm the soldiers. They had to depend on themselves. They gathered in the woods and swamps, and frequently wanted both for food and clothing.

During his long absences from home, serving with the patriot resistance, Colonel Bratton was seldom able to see or communicate with his family, and Martha must have been constantly anxious for his safety. She, however, never complained, but devoted herself to the care of her family, striving at the same time to aid and encourage her neighbors.