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.