Women’s History Month–Deborah Sampson (1760-1827)

Deborah Sampson was born in 1760 in Plympton, Massachusetts. Her father never returned from a sea voyage, and in dire financial straits, unable to support Deborah and her siblings, her mother arranged for them to live with local families. Around age 10, Deborah was bonded to a family where she worked both in the home and fields. At the age of 18 and mostly self-educated, she was released from her indenture terms. By this time, in Colonial 1778, there was a little war for Independence going on.

You may have heard of it.

In 1782, with the Revolutionary War still going strong, Deborah bound her breasts, tied back her hair, doffed some trousers and enlisted in the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment of the Revolutionary Army.

She was billeted with 50-60 men, in Bellingham, MA (which just happens to be the town I grew up in.)

For nearly two years she masqueraded as Robert Shurtleff. During her time in the army she acted as a scout, led a raid on a Tory home which resulted in the capture of 15 men, and was wounded several times, including a pistol shot to the thigh.

Badass that she was, she removed the pistol ball herself to avoid detection.

Deborah’s sex was only discovered when she fell ill, lost consciousness and was brought to a hospital in Philadelphia.

In 1783 she was honorably discharged from the army. 

She was the only woman to receive a full military pension for participation in the Revolutionary Army.

Deborah died in 1827, at which point “her husband petitioned Congress for pay as the spouse of a soldier. Although the couple was not married at the time of her service, in 1837 the committee concluded that the history of the Revolution “furnished no other similar example of female heroism, fidelity and courage.” He was awarded the money, though he died before receiving it.”

Deborah Sampson, Revolutionary Badass.

Learn more about Deborah here.

(And a shout out to the badass women who ran the Children’s Theaters group I belonged to as a child, who found Deborah’s story, and inspired at least one young girl in Bellingham, MA.)

Happy Women’s History Month!


Women’s History Month–Sybil Ludington (1761-1839)

Sybil, born in 1761, was the eldest of 12 children.

Sybil’s father Henry Ludington was a militia officer of the 7th Regiment of the Dutchess County Militia, a volunteer regiment of local men during the Revolutionary War. In 1777, British troops (likely rolling in rum) were burning and looting the town of Danbury, Connecticut. Henry needed to muster his men, but most of them had returned to their homes throughout the county for the planting season. The messenger who delivered the news of the attack was exhausted, but someone was needed to spread word.

Sybil, on her horse Star, rode through the night to rouse those troops, even fending off a highwayman with her father’s musket. By morning, almost 400 of them were gathered to march on Danbury. They were too late to stop the attack on Danbury, but they were able to inflict considerable damage on enemy troops.

Sybil rode more than 40 miles, TWICE the distance of her more famous male counterpart, Paul Revere. And unlike Revere, she wasn’t captured.

She was 16.

According to the National Women’s History Museum, Sybil’s heroic ride went on to be recognized by General George Washington himself.

Sybil died in 1839.

Colonel Henry Ludington’s memoir claims:

“One who even now rides from Carmel to Cold Spring will find rugged and dangerous roads, with lonely stretches. Imagination only can picture what it was a century and a quarter ago, on a dark night, with reckless bands of “Cowboys” and “Skinners” abroad in the land. But the child performed her task, clinging to a man’s saddle, and guiding her steed with only a hempen halter, as she rode through the night, bearing the news of the sack of Danbury. There is no extravagance in comparing her ride with that of Paul Revere and its midnight message. Nor was her errand less efficient than his. By daybreak, thanks to her daring, nearly the whole regiment was mustered before her father’s house at Fredericksburgh.”

Sybil Ludington, teenage badass.

Learn more about Sybil here.

Happy Women’s History Month!