Founding sisters - 10 Badass Women of the Revolutionary War

Founding sisters - 10 Badass Women of the Revolutionary War

“I desire you would remember the ladies”

-March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams to her husband, John Adams

As the Second Continental Congress was formed and debated the Declaration of Independence, Abigail began the argument in her letters to her husband that the creation of a new form of government was a chance to make the legal status of women equal to that of men.

July 4th is “Mission Statement Day”. Thomas Jefferson wrote beautiful ideals in the Declaration of Independence, but we have not lived up to them. The words “We the people” did not include women, black and brown people nor Native Americans. Fortunately, The Constitution is a living document that can be edited. I feel the reckoning happening, we are standing up, organizing, demanding for our voices to be heard so that all Americans are considered equal.

We always hear about the founding fathers, but who are the founding mothers? Founding Sisters as I like to call them. One of my passions is discovering women whose great achievements were overlooked or men to took the credit for and reclaiming them as my own personal sheroes. This independence day, I just had to find the Divine Feminine in the birth of The United States of America.

The written history of the revolution was generally written by men, about men. Words are the only record that historians recognize. Even though these women were raising money through female-run organizations, refusing to buy British made products and even spying, too often the souls and passions of women went unrecorded. Their selfless actions allowed their men to take up arms and create a new nation.

Even though society did not easily permit females to participate in the Revolutionary War, women did great things by giving to their country in many different ways. Although there are too many women to list who contributed to the struggle for freedom and are not recognized, here are my ten picks listed in no particular order.

1. Abigail Adams 

In 1775, Abigail was appointed by the Massachusetts Colony General Court to question fellow Massachusetts women who were charged by either their word or action of remaining loyal to the British crown and working against the independence movement. John wrote to Abigail “…you are now a politician and now elected into important office, that of judges of Tory ladies…”

Abigail remained in Braintree managing the farm and household and raising their children. Although women at that time did not normally handle business affairs, Abigail traded livestock, hired help, bought land, oversaw construction, and supervised the planting and harvesting, allowing her husband to become the statesman and leading advocate of American independence. “I hope in time to have the reputation of being as good a Farmess as my partner has of being a good Statesman,” she once wrote.

Throughout his career, Abigail had served as an unofficial advisor to John. Their letters show him seeking her counsel on many issues, including his presidential aspirations.

Thankfully, their extensive correspondence has allowed us to know what an extraordinary woman Abigail Adams was.

2. Nancy Hart 

Here is a woman is known to have a hot temper, fearless spirit, and no hesitation to deliver revenge if she felt herself or any member of her family had been harmed.

The most well-known account of Nancy’s life begins when six British soldiers stopped at her cabin in search of a Whig leader, demanding information if he had stopped at her farm. Although the man they were tracking had been there, she denied seeing anyone.

Convinced that she was lying, one of the Tories shot and killed Hart’s prized gobbler, ordering her to cook the bird. Entering the cabin, they stacked their weapons in a corner and demanded something to drink. Hart obliged them by serving up wine. As the soldiers drank the wine, Hart sent her daughter to the spring for a bucket of water. She secretly instructed her daughter to blow a conch shell, kept in a nearby stump, to alert the neighbors that Tories were in the cabin.

As Hart served her unwelcome visitors and passed between them and their weapons, she began to pass the muskets through an opening in the cabin wall to her daughter, who had slipped outside to the rear of the house. When the soldiers noticed what was going on, they rushed to try and retrieve what weapons were left. She gave them one warning that she would shoot the next man that moved. Ignoring her warning, one man made the deadly mistake of approaching her. She held the rest off until her husband, Benjamin, and others arrived.

Benjamin Hart wanted to shoot the remaining hostages, but she insisted on hanging them.

In 1912 workmen grading a railroad near the site of the old Hart cabin unearthed a neat row of six skeletons that lay under nearly three feet of earth and were estimated to have been buried for at least a century.

3. Mercy Otis Warren 

“America stands armed with resolution and virtue, but she still recoils at the idea of drawing the sword against the nation from whence she derived her origin.”

 -December 29, 1774, Mercy Otis Warren

Known as the “Conscience of the American Revolution,” Mercy Otis Warren accomplished things unknown to women in her time. She was a prolific and influential writer and the first woman playwright. She was a woman who spoke her opinions by writing them down. Her writings contained her beliefs, thoughts, and opinions about wars and political issues and she sympathized with the call for revolution, composing political poetry.

There are many women who definitely had a significant role in the formation of this country during the Revolution when formal politics did not include women. Early on, Mercy Otis Warren, while recognizing social differences between men and women, also knew that the minds of both genders could be equally valuable. To this end she realized that women needed education as much as men and pushed for schools to be established for women and girls. Although not a feminist in contemporary terms, she was unique in her time, writing and working for equal respect and equal rights for women, regardless of station in life.

4. Sybil Ludington 

Sybil Ludington has been celebrated as the female Paul Revere because of her ride through Putnam and Dutchess Counties to warn the militia that British troops were burning Danbury, Connecticut.

British General Tryon and his forces set about selectively burning down homes and stores in Danbury. While destroying the properties, the British discovered several hundred cases of wine and rum. After consuming more rum than they ought to and lacking military discipline, the drunken soldiers cruelly set about igniting more fires.

A messenger was dispatched to Colonel Ludington with the news of the attack, reaching the Ludington home exhausted and unfamiliar with the area. It isn’t clear whether she was asked or volunteered, but Sybil set out on what has become her famous ride to alert the militia. Sixteen-year-old Sybil traveled 40 miles from her home, steering clear of British soldiers and Loyalists before returning home the next day.

5. Mary Ball Washington 

This is a woman that I personally feel has been forgotten. Granted, her only claim to fame is being George Washington’s mother and, at times, the relationship was known to be a little strained. But, Mary Washington was widowed at the young age of thirty-five and left with five children to raise. George was eleven years old when his father died, allowing his mother’s demands to shape his character. Mrs. Washington was strong-willed and ruled her house with sternness and common sense and taught her son to be a man of honor and principle. It was this way of thinking which formed her son’s personality to lead by example. Although not much has been written about Mary, history has shown that she had a deep and profound influence on the life of the first President of the United States and, for this, Mary should be properly remembered.

6. Molly Pitcher

Molly Pitcher was an American patriot who carried pitchers of water to soldiers during the Revolutionary War's Battle of Monmouth, thereby earning her nickname. After her husband collapsed during the battle, she took over the operation of his cannon

There are so many legends surrounding Pitcher that some historians believe her story is folklore or a composite of several people. Although there has been ample research done mostly by her descendants, an independent review of the documents has led some historians to conclude that Pitcher cannot be definitely identified. Most sources identify her birth name as Mary Ludwig.

As legend has it, the soldiers nicknamed her Molly Pitcher for her tireless efforts. But the legend only began with her new name. According to accounts, Pitcher witnessed her husband collapse at his cannon, unable to continue with the fight. She immediately dropped her water pitcher and took his place at the cannon, manning the weapon throughout the remainder of the battle until the colonists achieved victory. According to the National Archives, a witness documented her heroic acts, reporting that a cannon passed through her legs on the battlefield, leaving her unscathed:

"While in the act of reaching a cartridge . . . a cannon shot from the enemy passed directly between her legs without doing any other damage than carrying away all the lower part of her petticoat . . . She observed that it was lucky it did not pass a little higher . . . and continued her occupation."

With her actions on that day, Pitcher became one of the most popular and enduring symbols of the women who contributed to the American Revolution.

7. Martha Custis Washington

Martha Custis Washington belongs to the club, which I like to call, “Ladies Who Are Not Well Known In Their Own Right” and is remembered more for who she married. As the men were chanting at Valley Forge, “No bread, no soldier”, Martha Washington arrived on the scene with supplies from Mount Vernon. She set up a sewing circle of officers’ wives, including Kitty Greene and Lucy Knox, who both left their children at home and joined their husbands. She traveled every year to winter quarters with her husband. She emerged as a selfless, courageous and patriotic American. Mrs. Washington became indispensable as a nurse and comfort to Washington and his men. One witness to Martha’s activities later wrote: “I never in my life knew a woman so busy from early morning until late at night as was Lady Washington, providing comforts for the sick soldiers.”

8. Catherine Moore Barry 

Known as the “Heroine of the Battle of Cowpens”, Catherine (Kate) Barry volunteered as a scout for the American forces. Familiar with every trail and shortcut around her plantation in South Carolina and being an excellent horsewoman, Kate was crucial in warning the militia of the approaching British. The Battle of Cowpens took place on January 17, 1781. Before the battle, Kate was instrumental in rounding up the militia, including her husband Captain Andrew Barry, to support General Daniel Morgan and his troops. Thanks to the bravery of women like Catherine Barry, the Battle of Cowpens was a decisive victory by Continental army forces in the Southern campaign of the American Revolutionary War.

9. Esther DeBerdt Reed 

Esther established “The Ladies of Philadelphia”. The organization raised an enormous sum of $300,000 dollars for the troops by going door to door asking for donations.

Esther suggested to General Washington that the money be divided up and given to the soldiers. Although Washington was more than appreciative for the gift, he felt it would do more good if it was used for clothing. The women of The Ladies of Philadelphia bought linen, sewing shirts for the American troops.

10. Margaret Cochran Corbin 

Margaret Cochran Corbin was one of the wives who, during the Revolution, were tagged as “Camp Followers.” These women followed their husbands, cooking, washing laundry and doing whatever domestic chores needed to be done.

On November 16, 1776, while they were stationed in Fort Washington, the fort was attacked by British and Hessian troops. Margaret’s husband, John, was assisting a gunner who was ultimately killed during the battle. John then took over as gunner until he was killed. Margaret, known as Captain Molly, had no time to mourn and continued firing the cannon alone until she was wounded, severely injuring her shoulder and chest and mangling her jaw. She never fully recovered from the wounds and was left without the use of her left arm for the rest of her life.

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