Despite not having a political voice, women played many important roles during the American Revolution by supporting its causes through their consumer power, by being outspoken about women’s rights and by fighting in the War of Independence. Women boycotted British teas and other luxuries such as silk and satin. During the war, skilled colonial women produced clothing and blankets for the soldiers, as well as soap. At home, most women tended the family farms and businesses, opened their homes to soldiers for a good night’s sleep, and formed patriotic women’s organizations such as the Philadelphia Ladies Association and the Whig Association of the Unmarried Ladies of America in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
In 1776, Abigail Adams sounded the first call for women’s equality when she wrote a letter to her husband, John, who was a member of the Continental Congress that declared independence from Britain. She wrote:
“In the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.”
In May 1782, at the age of 21, Deborah Sampson enlisted to fight in the American Revolution under the name of her deceased brother, Robert Shurtleff Sampson, who died at the age of eight years old. When her leg was injured, she tended it herself in order to not be discovered. The wound worsened and she was sent to a physician, who “discovered, that she was a woman and made discreet arrangements that ended her military career.” However, she was honorably discharged from the military.
In 1777, Sybil Ludington who was 16 years old, volunteered to warn the countryside of the attack and to alert the militia troops to muster at Ludington’s. She rode some 40 miles in the middle of the night, shouting that the British were burning Danbury and helped to gather enough volunteers to beat back the British. Click here to read a poem about Sybil’s midnight ride.
Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley also known as “Molly Pitcher” was with her husband, William Hays, during the battle of Monmouth on June 28, 1778. Molly brought cool spring water to the exhausted and thirsty men and tended to the wounded. When she saw her husband wounded, she stepped forward and took the rammer staff from her fallen husband’s hands to man the gun. She stayed at her post in the face of heavy enemy fire.
While honoring our country’s history and heroes this Independence Day, let us not forget the sacrifices made by these and other women – along with men – to make our country free.
Happy Fourth of July!
Pioneer Heroine “Mad Anne Bailey” Performance at the Johnson County Museum
Monday, July 11, 7 p.m.
135 N. Main St., Franklin
Free to the public
“Mad Anne” Bailey was a pioneer scout, spy and messenger during the American Revolution, known for handling a horse and weapons as well as any man on the frontier. In 1791, at the age of 50, she made a heroic 100 mile ride carrying much-needed gunpowder from Fort Savannah to Fort Lee. Historic re-enactor Suzanne Dennis performs a lively first-person characterization of this pioneer heroine. A portion of Dennis’ performance fee benefits the American Widow Project, supporting spouses of fallen servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For more information, visit www.johnsoncountymuseum.org or call (317) 346-4500.