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Women of the American Revolution: Unsung Heroes

On the Battlefield

Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man to serve in the Continental Army under the name of "Robert Shirtliff" (also spelled Shirtliffe) of Uxbridge, MAHer disguise was discovered during medical treatment for an illness, but the physician, Dr. Barnabas Binnney, took her into his home for care by his family, without revealing her secret to army officials. Eventually she was honorably discharged, after a year and a half of service. She is one of the few women with documented military service in the American Revolution. But hundreds of women served as nurses, laundresses, cooks and companions to the male soldiers in the Continental Army.

The night ride of Sybil Ludington

Sixteen-year old Sybil Ludington rode forty miles through New York and Connecticut on a rainy night to warn the militia that the British were burning Danbury and preparing for more raids. The British were met at Ridgefield on April 27, 1777 and eventually forced to retreat to Long Island Sound. The tale of Sybil and her horse was set to poetry by Berton Braley in 1940, with a nod to Longfellow's poem The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. It begins:
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of a lovely feminine Paul Revere


Fighting Slavery

Elizabeth Freeman, aka Mum Bett, was one of the first slave women to successfully sue for her freedom in Massachusetts under the state constitution, in the aftermath of the Revolution. Freeman decided to seek freedom after hearing a public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Family lore says she was driven by abuse at the hands of her owner. When the municipal case was upheld by the state courts, the ruling was considered to have implicitly ended slavery in Massachusetts. Once free, she worked in her attorney's household as a paid governess and senior servant.