There were many heroes of the revolutionary war, but the ones we most often hear about in (HIS)tory are men. While women played many important gender-normative roles like manufacturing goods during British boycotts, spinning fabrics, and nursing soldiers, they were also spies, secret soldiers, and radical poets. Here are just a few of the women who risked their lives and reputations for our freedom.
10 Revolutionary Women to Inspire Your Nanny Kids With
Molly Pitcher (Mary Ludwig Hays)
Molly Pitcher of Monmouth, NJ took her husband’s place (when he was dangerously wounded) at the canon for 24 hours at the Battle of Monmouth, and delivered water to the troops (50 of whom reportedly died of thirst during the battle.) She received the personal thanks of Gen. Washington and from the Continental Congress, a sergeant’s commission, and half pay through life.
Sarah Bradlee Fulton, mother of the Boston Tea Party
Sarah Bradlee Fulton is known as the mother of the Boston Tea Party and served as Gen. Washington’s messenger inside enemy’s lines in Boston. Sarah performed many heroic acts throughout her life, once telling her grandson she “never turned her back on anything.”
Mammy Kate was an enslaved African who worked on Georgia Gov. Stephen Heard’s plantation. When Heard was captured and held prisoner during the American Revolution, Mammy Kate managed to infiltrate and smuggle Heard out. Mammy Kate was the first Black woman to be honored as a patriot of the American Revolution in the state of Georgia.
Lydia Darragh’s eavesdropping on British soldiers and daybreak journey through ice and snow to the grist mill saved the army of Washington. It was said that this simple Quaker woman outsmarted a British spymaster.
The Patriot Spy, Nancy Hart of South Carolina single-handed captured six Tories (British soldiers.) According to Revolutionary lore, Nancy Hart famously outwitted the group of Tories who had invaded her home. She served them wine 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.
Emily Geiger of South Carolina rode 50 miles on horseback through the country infested by the British, carrying a message from Gen. Greene to Gen. Sumter, was captured, searched (after she had swallowed her dispatches), released, and gave the message verbally.
Deborah Sampson of Massachusetts successfully disguised herself as a man and fought as a common soldier for two years.
Prudence Wright and the women of Pepperell, Mass., guarded the bridge at Pepperell and secured, by capture, a Tory carrying dispatches.
Phillis Wheatley was kidnapped from West Africa at age 7 and taken to America. She was an educated girl who wrote poetry, including one poem for Gen. George Washington. When Washington, leader of the Patriot army, heard about the poem Wheatley wrote about him, he invited her to his camp, where she read for the future President. Wheatley became the first Black woman to have a book published and was later granted her freedom. Her poetry helped to spur the anti-slavery movement.
Betty Zane of Virginia carried (under fire by the British and Indians), powder in a tablecloth from the powder house to the fort, a distance of 100 yards, which saved the day at Fort Henry, Va.
As you can see, the revolution would not have been possible without the bravery of these women and many many more. It’s important to celebrate all contributors who risked their lives for our nation’s freedom. It’s a great reminder of how precious this freedom is.
Yet not alone by men reclaimed
Brave women too achieved their part
With courage, love and loyalty,
They bore war’s cruel smart
We turn no printed page to-day,
Their gracious deeds to magnify
Within our hearts their memories rest,
Their influence cannot die.
We raise this modest table stone
Our sister’s name and fame to keep
The impress of her noble life
Ends not with a dreamless sleep –
May we be wise and ever prize,
The lessons taught us here,
That freedom comes by sacrifice
And duty knows no fear.
-Mary Jane Seymour
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