Category: Helping Hands Blog
Published: Thursday, 30 June 2016 12:35
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Colonial LadyHeroines Making a Difference

The American Revolutionary War was a time of national upheaval and unrest. Numerous men rose to heroic status and we can name many of their names off the top of our heads. Men such as John Henry, John Hancock, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and a dozen more are highlighted in our history books. But if we are asked to name some heroines we would start running into trouble. Betsy Ross, credited with designing the American flag, is probably one of the most remembered women. Beyond her, most of us can’t name another woman who was instrumental in shaping our country. Perhaps during this week of our country’s 240th birthday we could take a minute to learn about some of the unsung heroines of the war that birthed our country.


Leading Officers’ Wives

During the winter months of 1777 and 1778 George Washington bunkered his troops at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania to weather the bitterly cold northeastern winter. Shelter was rough and rudimentary, food supplies were low and many men became sick and died. Through the wintery gloom, a group of women trudged almost daily to the camp to care for the troops by providing medical care, sewing and even food from their own rations. Unless someone told you, you might never have known that these women were officer’s wives who had left the comfort of their own homes to winter at Valley Forge with their spouses alongside the troops. Martha Washington and Lucy Knox spearheaded the group. Cokie Roberts wrote in her book, Founding Mothers, that one person described Martha this way, “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.”

Margaret Corbin

Margaret Corbin, like dozens of other women, physically followed her husband when he joined the Continental Army. Although not allowed to fight, she helped to cook, clean and otherwise take care of the men in the regiment. Her husband, John, was a gunner’s assistant. On November 16, 1776 Fort Washington, where John was stationed, came under attack. The battle was horrific. John’s gunner was killed and John took over firing the cannon. Eventually he, too, was killed. In stepped Margaret, taking over the gunner’s duty and continuing to fire the big gun until she became severely wounded and unable to continue fighting. Mrs. Corbin earned the nickname of “Captain Molly” for her heroism.

Mary Murray

Mary Murray had the unfortunate circumstance of being from a patriot family and a patriot herself while her husband, Robert, was a Tory and supported the British cause. Robert was a very successful businessman in New York City. On September 15, 1776 General Howe arrived in the city purposed to take it out of the Continental Army’s control. Severely outnumbered, the Patriot army decided to retreat. As the British approached the Murray plantation enroute to the army’s position, Mary invited the general and his officer’s inside the house for tea. For the next couple of hours she wined and dined the officers, delaying their trek and allowing time for the patriots to escape.

Hannah Arnett

No one disagrees that the Revolutionary War was tough on the soldiers of Washington’s army. Many died and all went without adequate provisions and clothing from time to time. Many men who were unable to bear the conditions, although supporting the cause, returned to their homes and families. Had it not been for Hannah Arnett, the number of defectors would have been even greater. Hannah’s husband was a patriot and fought in the Continental Army, but he and fellow townspeople of Elizabethtown, New Jersey had reached their breaking point. One night as they held a meeting in the Arnett home to discuss defecting, Hannah burst into the room and gave them a piece of her mind and even threatened to leave her husband if he went through with his plan to begin fighting for the better equipped British. The men listened to her and remained loyal to Washington.

Prudence Wright

Prudence Wright has the prestige of being one of only a very few female militia commanders for the patriots. After her husband marched off to war she gathered the ladies that were left in their town and organized them into a militia of their own to protect the town of Pepperell, Massachusetts and to capture British spies travelling through the town between Canada and Boston. The militia’s planning paid off one night as two spies were captured and dispatches were obtained. One of the spies turned out to be Hannah’s brother.

Penelope Barker

Anyone who knows American history can relate the story of the Boston Tea Party when the colonists revolted against British taxation. What is less known is that the idea of destroying taxed products was not new in the colonies, nor was destruction limited to just Boston. In 1775 Penelope Barker led the Edenton, North Carolina Tea Party protest in which she and about fifty other women signed a proclamation promising to boycott British goods. She even sent the letter to London to be printed publicly. Although the proclamation met derision in England it inspired both men and women throughout the colonies to stand up to the tyrannical government and many followed Penelope’s lead and held their own town tea parties.

Five Women

These five women are only a handful of the women who sacrificed for the cause of freedom. Sure, the men may have physically fought valiantly and their names may be more popular, but without the dedication of the patriot women, many of whom we will never know the names of, the war would not have been a success for us!



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