I think of myself as a history buff, so I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I never gave much thought to womens' contributions to the American Revolution.
Not until I read the new book Women Heroes of the American Revolution: 20 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Defiance, and Rescue.
Rich, poor, beautiful, plain, city women and farm wives, all ages, even teenage girls helped in the cause of liberty.
These women did not hesitate, but acted with bravery and resourcefulness, sharing whatever resources and skills they possessed in the fight for independence, often risking their lives, fortunes and “sacred honor” just as the men did.
Today I've invited Author Susan Casey to tell us about some of those brave women.
Nearly every American knows about Paul Revere and his ride to warn the Continental Army. Why don't we know about 16-year-old Sybil Ludington?
Sybil rode twice as far as Paul Revere, roughly 40 miles to muster the troops of her father's militia, alerting them to join her father to join the other forces fighting against the British during the Battle of Danbury.
As I delved into the lives of the women featured in my book I felt pulled into their stories, into a process of not only gathering facts but also trying to understand who they were and what motivated them.
I wondered about the feelings of Sybil Ludington, as she rode her horse though the dead of night.
What was she thinking about?
Was she scared?
I was frustrated by the lack of information about her and many others but no less curious. I wanted to know more about what prompted Lydia Darragh to walk miles to warn George Washington of an impending attack without telling anyone, including her husband.
Many of their stories were single incidents.
For example, while I found many books featuring the story of Prudence Wright as leader of the Pitchfork Brigade I was captivated to find that besides being able to organize an ambush she excelled in the art of sand scouring, a way of cleaning and also creating patterns on her wooden floor.
Discovering that fact made her come alive for me and gave me a window into a small aspect of life in another era. Days after shots were fired at Lexington and Concord setting off the American Revolution, Prudence Wright organized the women of her town of Pepperell, Massachusetts to waylay couriers taking plans to the British.
Dressed in their husband's clothing and armed with pitchforks, the women surprised the men. To Prudence's dismay one of the couriers was her own brother.
Betty Zane was only sixteen in 1782 when she fought with only a few dozen other settlers to defend Fort Henry, a frontier village in what is now West Virginia.
The British and their Native American allies would have won the conflict if Betty had not run across the battlefield and retrieved much needed gunpowder from a nearby cabin.
When she ran back across the field arrows and shots flew past her, some ripping through her petticoat. She safely slid through the doors of the fort making possible a win for the Americans in one of the last battles of the American Revolution.
As I researched and wrote about these women, I felt as though I was living with twenty plus roommates. I was as involved in their lives as in the lives of people I actually know. In the months since I finished the book I find myself missing the women and searching for ways to visit them again.
Thank you, Susan! I felt much the same way about the WWII Nurses I wrote about in Pure Grit.
I enjoyed reading Susan's book, which you can buy here... Women Heroes of the American Revolution. Find more about Susan Casey here...
I'm fascinated to discover little-known stories of history. Stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
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