Woman in American History

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We read about men that discovered and conquered, fought wars, and even died for their country; sometimes we neglect to express the significant role women played during the Revolutionary War. Pamela Murrow states in an article that, “The written history of the most underrated revolution was generally written by men, about men,” which adequately explains the way our textbooks are written today. Although fighting for freedom and liberty was a crucial part of the Revolutionary War, the efforts of the “Daughters of Liberty” are often overlooked.

In some textbooks, such as Give Me Liberty, we can find a mere section of a page briefly touching on the revolutionary women of this time. Failing to showcase women such as: Abagail Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, Deborah Sampson and Sybil Ludington are examples of such revolutionary women, yet, sadly, bring little-to-no recollection to the average high school graduate. Although these women do not make it into our textbooks, regardless, their lives are meant to be commemorated.

Abagail Adams was passionate about independence, and famously argued how it should be applied to both men and women (History.com, Abagail Adams). When writing letters to her husband, President John Adams, she not only kept her husband informed about the affairs taking place while he was away, but she also pushed for the desired status of independence for women and what that should look like.

In one of the letters to her husband she wrote, “I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors… If particular attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no Voice, or Representation.” President John Adams unfortunately did not go on to address the topic of equality while in office, however, there are many letters documenting how he sought Abagail’s counsel- making Abagail his “unofficial advisor” of sorts. Abagail Adams may not have brought equality for women in her time, she not only set an example for the women to come, but she is considered one of the most extraordinary and outspoken women of her time.

Another revolutionary woman was Mercy Otis Warren, also known as the “Conscience of the American Revolution,” (Pamala Kline & Paul Pavao). Being an influential, as well as opinionated writer, Mercy composed what was called “political poetry.” She published her beliefs, views, thoughts, and opinions about topics such as war and politics (Pamala Kline & Paul Pavao). As Mercy Warren continued to write, she began to wrestle with the idea of including educated women in politics, which then led the push for women to be able to attend schools and become educated. Today she may not be categorized as a “feminist,” however during the American Revolution her views of respect and equality for women, as well as the unspoken way about her, Mercy Otis Warren was centuries ahead of her time; paving the way for women of literature.

One of the most fearless women of the American Revolution was Deborah Sampson. While war raged on, Deborah posed as a male, taking on the name of Robert Shurtleff, and even went on to join the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment. Eventually she was assigned to Captain George Webb’s infantry, when she completed many dangerous tasks. For over two years Deborah Sampson kept her true sex hidden, despite the multiple battle wounds and gun shots she encountered. When she was in Philadelphia there was an outbreak of an epidemic and she became very ill, to the point of losing consciousness, when she had to be taken to the hospital.

While she was being helped, her true identity was then revealed. Deborah Sampson received an honorable discharge and was able to return to Massachusetts in 1783. Many years later her story was published, by a man, inspiring her to go on a year-long tour, telling of her experiences as the first woman of war (Debra Michals). Although Deborah was no “Disney princess,” for a woman to take on the role of a man and go to war was not a question to most in society. Her patriotism and desire to serve her country will forever be an example of female heroism.

Sybil Ludington was the daughter of, respected militia officer, Colonel Henry Ludington. In April of 1777, two thousand British soldiers arrived in Connecticut with twenty transports and six warships (History of American Women, Sybil Ludington). The British caused destruction, burning down Army storehouses and homes. Once this took place, messengers were sent in every direction to announce the arrival of the soldiers and warn of their destruction. When the news reached Colonel Ludington, he started arranging means of attack, however, the men of his militia had gone back to their families at this time.

With his men scattered, the only way to form any kind of threat against the British was to send someone to alert his men and the surrounding area. Familiar with the area, Sybil and her horse Star, rode through the night sounding the alarm that, “the British are coming!” Not only was she able to alert her father’s militia, but she managed to defend herself against highwaymen along the way using a musket (History of American Women). It is unknown whether Sybil Ludington volunteered herself for the task or if her father instructed her to go. However, the heroic act of patriotism demonstrated by, at the time sixteen-year-old Sybil, unfortunately goes without acknowledgement to this day.

Although Sybil’s story is similar to the ride of Paul Revere, the distance she went to warn her father’s men was more than twice the distance, exceeding forty miles. In the book “Colonel Henry Ludington: A Memoir,” written by Willis Fletcher Johnson, he states, “There is no extravagance in comparing her ride with that of Paul Revere and its midnight message… By daybreak, thanks to her daring, nearly the whole regiment was mustered before her father’s house at Fredericksburg, and an hour or two later was on the march for vengeance on the raiders.” Although the ride of Sybil Ludington is virtually unheard of today, her memory lives on with a 50 K marathon held in Caramel, New York that is approximately the same distance as her heroic ride (History of American Women, Sybil Ludington).

The article titled #HerStoryIsHistory: Women Who Were Left Out of History says it best, “Despite their notable contributions throughout history, women’s history is not fairly or accurately represented in history textbooks.” Women who were a part of any time period, especially a time of war and revolution, should have their stories equally represented in the history. Up until recent history women have not been portrayed as playing a crucial role in politics, let alone America’s founding heritage. The women bold enough to make a difference by becoming involved are just as much heroes as the men who won the battles. Acknowledging these female patriots would go a long way towards promoting the significance of every step taken in the fight for freedoms, both big and small.


Cite this paper

Woman in American History. (2021, May 22). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/woman-in-american-history/

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