Having just spent the Fourth of July celebrating the Founding Fathers and their greatest achievement, it comes as no surprise that important figures of American history are on everyone’s minds. While most people know the stories of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, the women of the American Revolution are often forgotten. Though the fireworks may be over and the BBQ grills put away, let us remember a few of the important American Revolution-era women who helped mold the best parts of our country, from sea to shining sea.
1. Sybil Ludington
In April of 1776, two individuals were sent out on a midnight ride to warn their communities that the British were invading American soil. One of these messengers was Paul Revere, a famous figure in American history. The other messenger was not, however, a Founding Father or a military hero. She was a sixteen year-old girl named Sybil Ludington. Though Sybil rarely gets the credit she deserves as a hero of American history, her ride on horseback was actually twice as long as Revere’s, and her efforts allowed the local military regiment to assemble and march against the British.
2. Phyllis Wheatley
Though she had been kidnapped from her native Gambia and forced into slavery upon reaching the United States, Phyllis Wheatley overcame many obstacles in order to become the nation’s first published African American poet. The publishers of her book were concerned that no one would believe that a female slave had written such beautiful poetry so they asked nearly twenty distinguished men in Boston to authenticate that she had. Wheatley’s work was so well-regarded that she was invited to meet George Washington after sending him a letter and poem of support. Soon after that she became recognized far and wide for her talented artistry and for her support of the Revolution.
3. Polly Cooper
Long before the French joined the American Revolution as allies to the colonists, American revolutionaries received support from the Oneida Nation, a Native American tribe that played an important role in providing aid to the colonists. One Oneida woman in particular was integral to the survival of the Revolution during the winter of 1777. Her name was Polly Cooper and she has been described as “an example of the courage, generosity and indomitable spirit of the Oneida people”. As one of forty members sent to Valley Forge in order to deliver food and medical aid, Cooper remained with the Revolutionary Army throughout the winter in order to insure the survival of as many soldiers as possible.
4. Abigail Adams
Easily one of the most famous women on this list, Abigail Adams was the wife and private advisor of eventual President John Adams. While she is most famous for urging her husband to “remember the ladies” when making new laws for the young nation, she also acted as a military organizer and “an adamant advocate of equal public education for women and emancipation of African-American slaves”. She was friends with a number of early American feminists, including Mercy Otis Warren, a political writer and satirist.
These women are just a few of the many ladies of liberty that history too often forgets. As you enjoy the last few fireworks and frankfurters from the holiday, remember to celebrate America’s earliest feminists as well!