Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Founding Mothers

George Washington, Ben Franklin, Paul Revere — let’s face it. When we think of the American Revolution, we think of men — the Founding Fathers.

But what about the many women who fought for our freedom? And why did I not learn about them in history class back at Jurassic High?

Mercy Otis Warren
Mercy Otis Warren had a farm and a family to manage. She also had a gift for writing. She wrote letters to the newspaper, complaining about King George III. She had to write these letters without signing them. Otherwise, British soldiers would have come knocking on her door.

She also wrote plays. One was called  A Model Celebration, and it portrayed mermaids enjoying the tea that Boston patriots had tossed into the harbor during the Boston Tea Party. Mercy helped to shape people’s opinions and stir up the Revolution.

In 1781, the British General Cornwallis “camped” on the property of Martha Bell — meaning the Brits moved into her house and took over her mill. When Cornwallis finally moved on, some American officers asked Martha if she would spy for them. She was only too happy to help.

She saddled her horse and rode to the General’s new camp, where she complained to Cornwallis that some of the men had stolen things from her farm. While the general questioned his troops, Martha made mental notes about the British army — how many cannons and horses they had, how many wounded men. The information she gathered was very helpful to the Americans.

Elizabeth “Betty” Zane was a teenage girl in what is now known as Wheeling, West Virginia. A group of about 300 British and Shawnee allies attacked a group of fewer than 50 American settlers. The settlers were quickly running out of gunpowder and other necessary items. Brave Betty volunteered to run back to her home and get more supplies. 

Elizabeth Zane

When Betty left the fort, the enemy soldiers ignored her. After all, she was just a girl. But when she returned, carrying bags, they guessed her mission and opened fire. Somehow she slipped through a barrage  of bullets and got the supplies to the settlers. When dawn came, the British were worn down, and they moved on. 

Deborah Sampson
When Deborah Sampson was 21 years old, she cut off her hair and enlisted in the Continental Army—as a man. She gave her name as Robert Shurtleff. The other soldiers teased “Robert” for being “too young to shave.” Injured several times, she treated herself rather than have the doctor check her out. Once she even cut a bullet out of her own thigh.

But one day Deborah came down with a fever and fainted. She was carried to the doctor’s tent, and the doctor discovered her true identity. She was honorably discharged and sent home, after serving her country well as a soldier. 

  • Sybil Ludington, a 16-year-old girl in New York, rode her horse Star forty miles at night to warn of a British invasion.
  • Phyllis Wheatley, who came to America from Africa aboard a slave ship, wrote stirring poetry about liberty.
  • Esther Reed and Sarah Franklin Bache collected money for military uniforms and organized sewing groups to make them.
  • Rebecca Stillwell Willets saw British soldiers landing on the beach. Since all the men were fighting elsewhere, she fired a canon at the enemy and drove them away.
Sybil Ludington

And these are only a few of the inspiring true stories of the women and girls who made a real contribution to the Revolutionary War. They melted their best pewter dishes to make bullets. They carded wool and spun cloth. They served as nurses. They made brave and perilous journeys to bring information and supplies to the troops. In some cases, they fought in battle right alongside the men.

So as we celebrate Independence Day, let’s not forget our courageous and more-than-amazing Founding Mothers!