Anna Maria Lane

Woman Soldier in the Revolutionary War

Anna Maria Lane is best known as Virginia’s only female soldier in the Revolutionary War. Anna Maria followed her husband, when he joined the Continental Army in 1776. Although many women worked as cooks or laundresses at the military camps, Anna Maria dressed in men’s clothing and performed the duties of a soldier. John and Anna Maria fought in battles in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

The Lanes were with New England troops under General Israel Putnam when he linked up with General George Washington‘s army near Philadelphia after the Battle of Brandywine.

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Anna Smith Strong

Member of the Culper Spy Ring

Image: Map Showing the Routes Taken by the Culper Spy Ring – Long Island, New York

The British occupied New York City in August 1776, and the city would remain a British stronghold for the duration of the Revolutionary War. The Culper Ring, also known as the Setauket Spy Ring, was a group of operatives whose purpose was General George Washington aware of the movements of the British in New York City and Long Island.

Some credit Nathan Hale’s capture and execution with having launched the Culper Spy Ring. Nathan Hale, a young Patriot, volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission to the city, but the British captured Hale carrying drawings of their fortifications in his shoe and hanged him on September 22, 1776. He is best remembered for his last words: “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” Hale’s death illustrated the grave dangers inherent in spying for the Patriots.

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Ann Bates

Spy for the British during the Revolutionary War

Ann Bates, a schoolteacher in Philadelphia, was married to Joseph Bates, a British soldier and artillery repairman in General Henry Clinton’s army. In 1778, her husband joined the British troops who evacuated Philadelphia and marched to New York City. Claiming to be a patriot, Bates passed through the American lines and followed the army to New York.

Bates felt it was her duty to seek out information on illegal colonial activity and report back to her husband’s superiors. From her husband she learned to identify the weaponry and report on important military information such as the numbers of cannons, men and supplies.

In New York, Major John Andre was appointed an aide to General Henry Clinton, the new commander-in-chief. Clinton had confidence in Andre’s resourcefulness and discretion, and assigned Andre the coordination of British intelligence activities in the New York area.

Under the cover name ‘Mrs. Barnes,’ Ann Bates became a Loyalist spy in Major Andre’s spy ring. Andre sent her to American army headquarters at White Plains, New York, where she listened in on conversations, checked gun emplacements and assessed the strength of the American units. She also taught other spies how to locate safe houses as they made their way back to British-held territory.

Bates was brazen enough to walk into the headquarters of General George Washington in White Plains. She later wrote:

I had the opportunity of going through their whole army remarking at the same time the strength and situation of each brigade, and the number of cannon, with their situation and weight of ball each cannon was charged with.

At that time women were allowed to come and go where they pleased because military authorities did not think that women could comprehend the significance of what they saw. This particular thinking gave Bates the ability to wander throughout American camps, recording vital information concerning equipment and logistics. Her information was accurate and her missions were dangerous.

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Bathsheba Spooner

First Woman Executed in the New United States

Bathseba Ruggles was born February 13, 1745, to Timothy Ruggles, a very wealthy man who had held some of the most prominent positions in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Bathsheba was said to be her father’s favorite child, was educated well and had everything money could buy. Joshua Spooner was born in 1741.

Ruggles, a lawyer and chief justice of the Court of Common Pleas in Worcester, Massachusetts, was a strong-willed and determined man and an avowed Loyalist (British supporter). Under public censure for his refusal to sign the Stamp Act protest as a Massachusetts delegate to the 1765 Stamp Act Congress, Ruggles may have arranged the marriage of his daughter Bathsheba to Joshua Spooner.

At any rate, on January 15, 1766, Bathsheba Ruggles married Joshua Spooner, twenty-five. The son of a wealthy Boston merchant, Spooner was a well-to-do and well-connected farmer in Brookfield, Massachusetts. They had their first child, Elizabeth, on April 8, 1767; three more followed between 1770 and 1775, but one died in infancy.

At a time when class distinctions were important and social status was determined by family lineage, both Bathsheba and her husband were scions of prominent families of the colonial aristocracy, raised to a life of wealth and privilege. In these years immediately before the Revolution they were living in what was considered an elegant two-story house in Brookfield, and were considered wealthy by their neighbors.

When the American Revolution began, Timothy Ruggles remained a Loyalist and was ultimately banished from Massachusetts, and the hatred generated by this extended to members of his family. He was forced to flee to Canada in 1774 and his massive estates were confiscated.

Joshua Spooner supported the Patriots, while Bathsheba shared her father’s views. This caused much dissention in the Spooner marriage, and when Bathsheba wanted to see her father in Canada, Joshua forbade it.

It was becoming common knowledge that the Spooner marriage was not a happy one, and that Bathsheba had developed what she was to characterize as an “utter aversion” towards her husband. The reasons for the rift are not fully known, but records indicate that Joshua Spooner was frequently drunk and sometimes physically abused his wife. Bathsheba, on the other hand was independent, strongwilled, and impetuous.

When thirty-two-year-old Bathsheba Spooner met Ezra Ross in the spring of 1777, he was a sixteen-year-old soldier in the Continental Army, who had served under General George Washington for a year. Ross was walking home from Washington’s winter camp in Morristown, New Jersey, when he fell ill with fever and was nursed back to health by Bathsheba Spooner.

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Sarah Morris Mifflin

Wife of Founding Father Thomas Mifflin

Portrait of Sarah and Thomas Mifflin
By John Singleton Copley, 1773
The Mifflins were the only Philadelphians painted by John Singleton Copley, the greatest artist in the American colonies prior to the Revolution. Copley depicts not only the features and costumes of his sitters, but creates an image of marriage as an equal partnership – an innovative concept in American portraiture at the time. Sarah recalled that Copley required twenty sittings for the hands alone. In the portrait, Sarah is weaving a decorative fringe on a portable loom, which symbolizes their endorsement of the colonists’ boycott of highly taxed imported English goods.

Sarah Morris was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 5, 1747. Thomas Mifflin was also born in Philadelphia, on January 10, 1744, the eldest son of wealthy Quaker merchant John Mifflin and Elizabeth Bagnall Mifflin. Thomas attended Philadelphia’s grammar schools, and graduated at the age of sixteen from the College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania).

Following in his father’s footsteps, Thomas Mifflin apprenticed himself to an important local merchant, completing his training with a year-long trip to Europe to gain a better insight into markets and trading patterns. In 1765 Mifflin returned to the colonies and founded an import and export business with his younger brother George Mifflin.

Thomas Mifflin married Sarah Morris on March 4, 1765. The young couple – witty, intelligent and wealthy – soon became an ornament in Philadelphia’s highest social circles. Sarah was an accomplished and supportive partner.

Military Career
Soon after the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Mifflin left the Continental Congress to serve in the Continental Army. Upon his appointment as a Major in May 1775, John Adams declared that Mifflin “ought to have been a general” because he was the “animating soul” of the revolutionary movement. Soon thereafter, the Quakers disowned him because his involvement with a military force contradicted his faith’s pacifist beliefs.

On June 23, 1775, Mifflin was appointed as General George Washington‘s aide-de-camp, but Mifflin’s talents and mercantile background led almost immediately to a more challenging assignment. In August, Washington appointed him Quartermaster General of the Continental Army. Washington believed that Mifflin’s personal integrity would protect the Army from the fraud and corruption. Mifflin struggled to eliminate the abuses that existed in the supply system.

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Sarah Pollard Pendleton

Wife of Virginia Statesman Edmund Pendleton

Sarah Pollard was born on May 4, 1725, daughter of Joseph and Priscilla Pollard. Edmund Pendleton was was born into the Virginia colony’s elite on September 9, 1721, in Caroline County, Virginia. However, his father’s early death and the subsequent loss of the family’s property left Pendleton to shift for himself. His upper-class origins eventually served him well, but his early years were ones of struggle.

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Nelly Conway Madison

Mother of Fourth U.S. President James Madison

Image: Nelly and James Madison, Sr.
By Charles Peale Polke, 1799

Nelly Conway was born on January 9, 1731, at Belle Grove plantation in Port Conway, Virginia, the daughter of prominent planter and tobacco merchant Francis Conway, for whom Port Conway was named.

James Madison, Sr. was born on March 27, 1723, the son of Ambrose Madison and his wife Frances Taylor at Mount Pleasant, a large tobacco plantation in Orange County, Virginia. Like many others who first came to the Piedmont, the Madison family hailed from the Tidewater on the coast of Virginia. In 1723 Ambrose Madison and brother-in-law Thomas Chew patented 4675 acres in the newly opened Piedmont of Virginia.

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Rebecca Calhoun Pickens

Wife of Patriot Militia General Andrew Pickens

Image: General Andrew Pickens
Robert Wilson, Artist
At the Battle of Ninety Six
His blue coat identifies him as a Patriot.

Rebecca Floride Calhoun was born on November 18, 1745, at Long Canes Creek, Abbeville, South Carolina. She was the daughter of Ezekiel and Jane Ewing Calhoun. According to 800 Years of Calhouns, at the age of 15, during the Long Canes Massacre, Rebecca hid for three days in the long canes to escape the Cherokee who killed her grandmother, Catherine Montgomery Calhoun, on February 1, 1760.

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Hannah Adams

First American Female Professional Writer

Hannah Adams was born on October 2, 1755, in Medfield, Massachusetts, the second of five children born to Thomas Adams and Elizabeth Clark Adams. Her grandfather Thomas Mason built the house in which Hannah was born, which is still standing. Her mother died when Hannah was 12 years old.

Image: Hannah Adams
Portrait by Chester Harding

As a child, Hannah was frail and timid. Afflicted by chronic ill health, to accompany her sister to school was a hardship. Finally allowed to stay at home, Hannah was taught by her father. She enjoyed the lessons because her father did not confine her to just the Bible, as was the custom in school at that time, but instead let her choose at will from books in his small library.

When Hannah was 16, the family’s finances were so depleted that her father began boarding some of the young men who were preparing for Harvard. Touched by Hannah’s eagerness for knowledge, these students taught her Greek, Latin, geography and logic. Strange studies for a girl, thought the local Medfield villagers but this girl was unique. She had a tremendous memory and such a far-away look that people said she was not of this world.

Though her father had inherited a comfortable fortune, he failed both as a farmer and a bookseller. His business failed when Hannah was 17 years old, and she began writing to support herself. Before long she was helping to support the family by tutoring the young men of Medfield who aspired to the college education she could not obtain.

Hannah developed a small circle of female friends, who were drawn together from Medfield and the surrounding towns by similarity of views. Most of them wrote verse, which was read and admired by those in the circle. Their mutual love of literature, lack of finances and indifference to the society of those whose minds were uncultivated, served to cement a union between them that remained throughout their lives. This group has been called the First Woman’s Club.

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Ann Eliza Bleecker

American Author and Poet

Ann Eliza Schuyler was born in New York City in October 1752, the youngest child of Brandt Margareta Van Wyck Schuyler, successful merchants and members of the American Dutch aristocracy. After a long illness, Ann Schuyler’s father died just before she was born. Ann’s mother remarried in 1760 to Anthony TenEyck, also part of the Dutch elite. They had one daughter, Susanna TenEyck.

Raised among the aristocracy of New York City, Ann was passionately fond of books, and was known for her precocious writing ability. She wrote verses which were shown to none but her most intimate friends, and was often asked to recite her poems, which ranged from sentimental or humorous to sophisticated or satirical. She often composed impromptu poems at the request of friends.

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