We’ve all heard about the founding fathers of the United States. Men like George Washington, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson whose actions and sacrifices helped to make this nation independent from England. But what about our Founding Mothers? Women whose actions and sacrifice both before and during the Revolutionary War helped to establish our independence. This is the story of just a few of these brave women.
Penelope Barker was at least on the surface the last woman you would think would have made a stand for the colonies Independence.
Not only was Penelope and her husband Thomas Barker wealthy landowners in North Carolina but her husband Thomas was an agent of the English crown. However, Penelope had a mind of her own and an interest in political affairs and believed that England had went to far with the Tea Act of 1773.
Hearing of the Boston Tea Party, Penelope decided to have a tea party of her own, southern style.
Going door to door and speaking with other women, Penelope incited other women to boycott all British tea and clothing. She convinced 50 women to attend a meeting she held on October 25, 1774. In the course of that meeting the women drew up a letter announcing the boycott and signed it. They then had it published in a London, Newspaper.
The crown did not take the women colonists seriously and many in England laughed at their puny attempts. The laughter quickly stopped however, when more and more colonial women followed Penelope’s lead and boycotted English made products.
Sybil Ludington was born on April 5, 1761 and raised in New York. She was the oldest of eleven children and the daughter of the commander of the New York Militia.
On the night of April 26, 1777 Sybil was putting her siblings to bed when the family received word that the English were burning Danbury, Connecticut.
The New York Militia under her father’s command were scattered over a 25 mile radius of the Ludington home and 16 year old Sybil was sent to sound like alarm.
Riding 40 miles (twice the distance of Paul Revere) through out the night Sybil went from farm house to farm house knocking on door with a wooden stick and sounding the alarm “Muster at Ludington”
During the ride she was drenched with rain continuously and had to fight off a highway man using her father’s musket.
By the time an exhausted Sybil arrived home near daylight 400 militiamen had assembled. Though her warning came too late to save Danbury the assembled Militia were able to confront General William Tryon the then governor of New York and his army and drive them back to Long Island Sound.
Her actions led to her personally be thanked by general George Washington.
Sybil continued to serve her country during the rest of the war by acting as a messenger for the troops/
Molly Pitcher is a legendary figure in the annuals of the Revolutionary war and in fact she may be a composite of two brave women of that time. Mary McCauley and Marget Corbin.
Both these women went to war with their husbands and served as “water boys” bringing water to the thirsty troops while in the heat of battle. Both women saw their husbands fall while loading or firing a cannon in battle. Mary McCauley’s husband was either wounded or fainted from the 100 degree heat at the battle of Monmouth, and Margret Corbin’s husband fell at Fort Washington.
Rushing to their husband’s side, these women then took over the tasks at the cannons that their husbands could no longer perform.
After the war both women received pensions for their service to their country.
Deborah Sampson is know as the first American woman to impersonate a man in order to fight in battle.
Born on December 17th 1760, Deborah was the oldest of 6 children. Abandoned by her father, and her mother in failing health Deborah served as a indentured servant for several years. When her servitude
ended Deborah wanted adventure and she wanted to enlist in the army and help fight for the colonies Independence.
Knowing that women were unable to enlist in the army in 1782 she cut her hair, bound her chest, and went to the recruiting office under the name of her brother Robert Shurtliff. She was assigned to the light infantry company of the 4th Massachusetts regiment.
After serving at West Point for several months Deborah was twice wounded along the Hudson and latter took a bullet to her thigh during another battle. The bullet in her thigh would cause her trouble the rest of her life. Despite these injuries, Deborah was able to avoid having her secret detected.
However, near the end of the war Deborah suffering from a malignant fever was hospitalized and treated. The attending physician discovered Deborah’s secret but said nothing. Once her health was restored the doctor met with the commanding officer.
The commanding officer ordered Deborah to carry a letter to the Commander in Chief of the continental army, George Washington.
The jig was up. Washington handed Deborah a discharge from the army, a note with words of advice, and enough money to pay her expenses home. She received an honorable discharge.
There are many other women whose stories deserve to be told. Women who hid messages and important documents in their petticoats and delivered them to the commanders of units, women who picked up muskets and fought alongside their husbands and brothers, and women who nursed the wounded. Many will remain nameless and never receive the recognition they deserve but they like the women mentioned above were all part of making the United States a free and independent nation.