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Most Important Women in the Revolution

Updated April 21, 2022
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Most Important Women in the Revolution essay

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Although gender equality is a concern right now, it was also very important in the past too. Abigail Adams is John Adams wife. She had a major impact on women’s rights. Molly Hays McCauley is a daring woman who was brave enough to dart through the many people and weapons to give water to soldiers. Deborah Sampson is a courageous woman who fought during the American Revolution. Even though she got caught one time, she still disguised herself and fought as a man during battle. The most influential Americans during the American Revolution era were Abigail Adams, Molly Hays McCauley, and Deborah Sampson.

Abigail Adams was a great influence in helping women get an education and have the same rights as men. Historian Rosemary Keller wrote, ‘Certain persons stand out as early witnesses to the possibility of a new way of life and self-understanding. Abigail Adams is one of them. She extended the meaning of the Declaration of Independence to women and acted on its principled in her daily life’ (Furbee, 19). John Adams, Abigail’s husband, had an important role in the Declaration of Independence, he was the bridge where Abigail could put across her opinions.

Gender equality for Abigail was very important, she wanted women to have the same standards as men. “Abigail felt that women should have the right to own property, sign contracts, transact business, and draft wills. Her primary request was that women’s ‘legal subordination’ to their husbands be eliminated.”(‘Deborah Sampson’ Notable Black American Women).

Abigail, like many other women, was raised in a society where men did not like women who were educated. “Many girls feared becoming too educated because some young men criticized clever women as too ‘masculine” (‘Deborah Sampson,’ Encyclopedia of World Biography, vol. 37). After Abigail got married to John Adams, she educated herself reading the newspaper daily and knew the current events in politics. This helped her debate politics with John and influence to change and look at some laws in a different perspective.

Abigail Adams wrote to John Adams often giving her opinion on the current affairs in politics. “Abigail wrote to him often. She expressed her affection, her support, and her ideas on how a free America should be governed. Women’s rights were her primary concern, yet she also addressed the need for women’s education and the immorality of slavery.”(Furbee, 26) Even though women’s right’s were her main focus, Abigail also showed John a distinct view in writing laws. “The Declaration of Independence did not, in the end, extend liberty or equality to blacks, women, or white men who did not own property. But a May 26 letter her husband wrote to a fellow delegate showed Abigail had influenced his thinking- and caused him to worry. The delegate wanted the new Massachusetts Constitution to allow white men who did not own property to vote.”(Furbee, 28) Abigail’s beliefs eventually rubbed off on John and his views started to change about rights in the Declaration of Independence.

Even though Abigail Adams did not really change the views of many people back then, she impacted the later generations. “Remembering the Ladies,” is a phrase that was created by Abigail that is now being used by women’s rights supporters. ‘Abigail Adams never won a battle, held an important post, or writing for publication. As historian Elizabeth Evans notes, only private words in private letters earned her a place in history as ‘ America’s most famous advocate of women’s rights’”(Furbee). Abigail had a vision for women’s rights which helped mold a path in a positive path for women’s rights advocates.

Another notable woman in the revolution was Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley, also known as “Molly Pitcher”, who fought in the Battle of Monmouth. ‘… Mary Hays, nicknamed Molly, came with him to the winter encampment, like other wives who prepared meals, washed clothes, and tended the ill. (Gundersen) “Yet when spring came and other wives left, Molly marched with the Continental Army toward the colony of New Jersey. There, on a hot and humid June 28, 1778, the army engaged British forces at the Battle of Monmouth, in the town of Freehold, Monmouth County. (Gundersen)” Molly was brave enough to participate in the battle. Her participation undeniably helped the soldier.

Molly Pitcher helped the war by bringing water to the famished soldiers. “During this decisive battle, Molly, dodging bullets, brought pitcher after pitcher of water to the men who had collapsed from the heat. Over the noise of battle rang cries of Molly—Pitcher!”(Gundersen). Not only did she bring water but, she also fought in the war. “William Hays was firing a cannon when Molly saw him collapse. After quickly determining that William’s wound was not fatal, she took over loading the canon, ramming the metal balls into the barrel with a ramrod” (Gundersen). Molly was perseverant and helped so many people during the war.

Molly was awarded for her valor, “that evening after the battle was over, General Washington asked to speak with Molly. He granted her a field commission as a sergeant in the Continental Army”(Gundersen). Molly’s remarkable altruistic efforts in the Battle of Monmouth during the American Revolution endorsed her the name of Molly Pitcher. Moly was also awarded pension, ‘Ten years before Molly died, Pennsylvania voted to give her $40 every year…They did this to reward her for her brave deeds during the war'(Bertanzetti). Her unmistakable courageousness shows that she was a true patriot, just like Abigail Adams.

Lastly, Deborah Sampson was a bold and committed woman fought during the revolution. “Women directly supported the war through service in the army. Although women posing as men violated both law and custom in eighteenth-century America, a number of women secretly ignored this taboo and fought with Revolutionary forces. Deborah Sampson (or Samson) was among the most famous women who saw combat” (Arndt). Deborah Sampson could easily mask her identity because of her “man-like” features. “Sampson’s height was above average for a female, and her ‘strong features, her stamina, and her remarkable adaptability enabled her to conceal her identity and perform her military duties well.” (‘Deborah Sampson’ Notable Black American Women) These qualities helped her disguise as a man. “Her first enlistment was under the name Timothy Thayer. Since she enlisted in her hometown, she was quickly recognized during a night out with her unit. Ostracized by the locals, she joined again at Uxbridge, Massachusetts, in 1781 as Robert Shurtleff. She fought for 18 months until she was wounded and her true identity discovered. Discharged in 1783” (The Role of Women in Building a New Nation).

Deborah Sampson fought in three wars and she got injured but she didn’t want to go to the doctor’s office because she didn’t want her true identity to be revealed. “As a soldier in the Fourth Regiment, Sampson’s robust strength and stamina served her well during her months of dangerous and hard fighting at White Plains, Tarrytown, and Yorktown” (‘Deborah Sampson’ Notable Black American Women) “It was in the battle at Tarrytown that she received a sword-cut on the head and two musket balls went into one of her legs. She was seriously wounded but afraid to go to a hospital lest her sex be discovered.” (‘Deborah Sampson’ Notable Black American Women) Her doctor did find out that she was a girl but kept it a secret. “Unsurprisingly, her gender was uncovered by Dr. Barnabas Binney, who nursed her back to health. After her recovery, Sampson returned to duty, serving under General Paterson at West Point. It remains unclear how this played out against the revelation of her true gender” (Deborah Sampson Encyclopedia of World Biography)

Not only did Deborah Sampson fight in the war but she also fought for a pension.

“In 1792, Sampson grew brave and petitioned the Massachusetts legislature for the back pay she was owed for service in the Revolutionary War. She had been discharged nearly a decade and, as a female, did not know how to petition for her back pay” (Deborah Sampson Encyclopedia of World Biography). She also fought for veteran’s pension, After getting back pay from Massachusetts, Sampson petitioned Congress for a veteran’s pension. Her petition suggested that she was in pain and infirm from her battle injuries. When Sampson’s petition failed, she went on a lecture tour to build support for her cause” (Deborah Sampson Encyclopedia of World Biography). Paul Revere helped her get veteran’s pension, “With the help of Paul Revere, she was granted a veteran’s disability pension in 1805 and a full pension in 1818. When she died, her husband successfully petitioned the government for a widower’s pension based on his spouse’s military service” (The Role of Women in Building a New Nation). Later on, Deborah Sampson got famous and “[she] then toured the country, becoming the first woman to speak publicly about her military experiences” (The Role of Women in Building a new Nation).

Abigail Adams, Molly Hays McCauley, and Deborah Sampson were revolutionary because of what they did during the American Revolution. Abigail Admas used her voice to speak up for many other women that didn’t have the same rights as men. Molly Hays Mcauley helped sick soldiers during the battle and took over her husband’s cannon after he got injured. Deborah Sampson fought in three wars in disguise as a man because a woman wasn’t allowed to fight. These three women became important figures for many other men and women and helped prove that women were as good as men.

Most Important Women in the Revolution essay

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