Thursday, June 6, 2013

Women of the Revolutionary War... A Comparative View

On a recent drive down the New Jersey Turnpike, my wife and I stopped in (by complete chance) to the Molly Pitcher service area.  Perhaps it is only because I grew up in New England, but Molly Pitcher was a well-known name in my childhood.  Fourth grade (maybe third grade?) pageant on American History: the Revolutionary-era women were Betsy Ross and Molly Pitcher.  We sang a song about her; we recited a poem about her.

After reading the small plaque about the "New Jersey Maid" and refreshing my memory on her exploits, I had to ask: why does she get all the press while Deborah Sampson Gannett remains somewhat (relatively) obscure?

I returned home and went to the local library (always my place of refuge).  A quick skim of the children's section on the American Revolution showed something similar to what I recalled from my childhood.  There were books that made an attempt to show that women were involved in the American Revolution.  The women mentioned: Betsy Ross, Martha Washington, Molly Pitcher.

For the first two, I can immediately see why fame comes easily.  Martha Washington's role, after all, is one still familiar today: first lady.  Betsy Ross, well, sewing was what women were supposed to do.  She fulfills a predictable and acceptable female role.

But what makes Molly Pitcher so much more heralded than Deborah Sampson?  That will be the subject of my next few blog posts... a comparison of these two revolutionary women, a grudge match of sorts.

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