(Above image of "Molly Pitcher." Since various Molly Pitcher tales grew in the telling, many historians regard Molly Pitcher as folklore, rather than history, or suggest that Molly Pitcher may be a composite image inspired by the actions of a number of real women. The name itself may have originated as a nickname given to women who carried water to men on the battlefield during the war. Some scholars attribute the tales of Molly Pitcher to the real life person, Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley.)
Women from all walks of life contributed to the American Revolution in multiple ways. Like men, women participated on both sides of the war. Among women, European Americans, African Americans, and Native Americans also divided between the Patriot and Loyalist causes.
While formal Revolutionary politics did not include women, ordinary domestic behaviors became charged with political significance as patriot women confronted a war that permeated all aspects of political, civil, and domestic life. They participated by boycotting British goods, spying on the British, following armies as they marched, washing, cooking, and tending for soldiers, delivering secret messages, and in a few cases like Deborah Samson fighting disguised as men. Above all, they continued the agricultural work at home to feed the armies and their families.
The boycott of British goods required the willing participation of American women; the boycotted items were largely household items such as tea and cloth. Women had to return to spinning and weaving—skills that had fallen into disuse. In 1769, the women of Boston produced 40,000 skeins of yarn, and 180 women in Middletown, Massachusetts, wove 20,522 yards (18,765 m) of cloth.
A crisis of political loyalties could also disrupt the fabric of colonial America women’s social worlds: whether a man did or did not renounce his allegiance to the king could dissolve ties of class, family, and friendship, isolating women from former connections. A woman’s loyalty to her husband, once a private commitment, could become a political act, especially for women in America committed to men who remained loyal to the king. Legal divorce, usually rare, was granted to patriot women whose husbands supported the king.
We have listed below 26 of the most outstanding women/young female teens of the Revolutionary War Era. Teachers may use the list to access biographies and to further develop their own curriculum about the Revolutionary War.
- Phillis Wheately - biography - her poetry
- Mercy Otis Warren - biography
- Mary Katherine Goddard - biography
- Esther Reed - biography
- Sarah Franklin Bache - biography
- Betsy Ross - biography
- Elizabeth Hutchinson Jackson - biography
- Kerenhappuch Turner - biography
- Polly Cooper - biography
- Nancy Morgen Hart - biography
- Rebecca Stillwelll Willets and her sister Sarah Stillwell - biographies
- Prudence Cummings Wright - biography
- Mammy Kate - biography
- Martha Bell - more about her
- Lydia Darragh- biography
- Emily Geiger - biography
- Nancy Ward (Nanye-hi, Nunne-hi) - biography
- "Mad" Ann Hennis Trotter Bailey - biography
- Elizabeth "Betty" Zane - biography
- Laodicea Dicey Langston - biography
- Sybil Ludington - biography
- Deborah Samson - biography
- Margaret Cochran Corbin - biography
- Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley - biography
- Abigale Adams - biography
- Dolley Madison - biography and another version - "A letter to Anna"