Remember the Ladies!
One established an organization of women that raised $7,000 for the Continental Army. Another, just 16, rode 40 miles by horseback to gather a militia. As a “Camp Follower,” another not only cooked for and aided the soldiers but fought beside her mortally wounded husband.
Meet Esther de Berdt Reed, Sybil Ludington, and Margaret Cochran Corbin. Three diverse, remarkable women united as one in the cause for liberty and independence.
The British-born Esther de Berdt Reed (1746–1780), a mother of six, organized the “Ladies Association of Philadelphia.” She successfully encouraged those within her social circle to donate the luxuries that graced their Philadelphia homes for the American cause. “The offering of the Ladies,” as it was called, raised the princely sum of $7000 (that’s about $230,000 today).
When a messenger warned Colonel Ludington about a British assault upon a strategic military site, his sixteen-year-old daughter, Sybil Ludington (1761–1839), mounted her horse and embarked on a 40-mile nighttime and perilous ride to spread the alarm and muster the troops. “Ride for the men,” her father reportedly said, “and tell them to be at this house by daybreak.”
Margaret Cochran Corbin (1751–1800), who lost her parents by the age of five, joined her husband as a “camp follower” while serving in the militia. She cared for the sick, aided the fallen, and cooked for the soldiers. When her husband was killed during the Battle of Fort Washington, “Captain Molly” took over his weapon (cannon) and fired upon the enemy. Later, in 1779, the Continental Congress awarded the financially struggling widow with a pension. Today she is hailed as the “first woman to take a soldier’s part in the War for Liberty.”
Abigail Adams (1744–1818) asked her husband, John, to “remember the ladies” while he and other Continental Congress delegates established the new nation’s framework. I think that she — — a champion of women’s rights long ahead of her time — -would like us to remember Esther, Sybil, and Margaret — — heroes of the American Revolution.
©Reignette G. Chilton