Four Lesser Known Founding Mother Heroes: “Remember the Ladies”

Most histories of America’s founding were written by men, so it is little wonder that the great and vital contributions of the women are often neglected. 

Memorial to Margaret Corbin in West Point Cemetery.

In her most famous letter to her husband, Abigail Adams pleaded for the founding fathers to remember the ladies.” 

In addition to the most famous Founding Mothers like Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, and Dolley Madison, there are dozens of lesser-known Founding Mothers who were Revolutionary heroes. Here are the stories of four of my favorites.

Margaret Corbin

Margaret Corbin served alongside the cannon with her husband at Fort Washington in New York City. When her husband was killed next to her, she immediately took his place at the cannon. She was hit in the arm by cannon fire three times. She was crippled and captured by the British who later handed her over to the Americans. Despite being disabled she continued to serve, doing all she could, including joining the Invalid Regiment at West Point and nursing the sick and wounded. She was given a half-soldier’s pension for the rest of her life – the first woman in American history to receive a military pension. She was also the only Revolutionary War veteran, man or woman, to be buried in West Point Cemetery.

Sybil Ludington

Statue erected in honor of Sybil Ludington in Carmel, New York in 1961
Sybil Ludington commemorative stamp reads: “Contributors to the Cause…Sybil Ludington: Youthful Heroine.”

Sixteen-year-old Sybil Ludington rode even greater distances than Paul Revere to carry strategic messages to the patriots. On April 26, 1777, her father Colonel Ludington received word from a rider that the nearby town of Danbury, Connecticut was under attack and needed help. The rider was too fatigued to continue on to the scattered farms to alert the militia. So young Sybil, risking her life, got on her horse, and rode almost 40 miles through the woods in the rainy night to summon the minutemen. By the time she finished, hundreds of soldiers had gathered to confront the British army.

Monument at Mary Ludwig Hays’ grave in Carlisle, Pennsylvania

Mary Ludwig Hays

Mary Ludwig Hays was married to an artilleryman. She brought pitchers of water to the overheated men while they fought battles, and was given the nickname “Molly Pitcher.

During battle, her husband was severely injured. She immediately took his place working the cannon. During the fight a cannon ball flew between her legs and tore her dress off. She looked down and shrugged, “Well, that could have been worse.” Then she went back to loading the cannon. Incredible!

Deborah Sampson

Deborah Sampson was one of the many documented women who disguised herself as a man, so she could serve in the Continental Army. She was 5’8”, which was very tall for a person at the time. 

Statue of Deborah Sampson in front of the public library in Sharon, Massachusetts

She enlisted as “Robert Shurtleff” in the elite light infantry company of the Massachusetts Regiment. This unit was reserved for the best of the best.  

Deborah’s comrades teased her because she had a fair complexion and no facial hair. Ironically, they gave her the female nickname of “Molly.” 

During one battle, Deborah was shot twice in the thighs and slashed by a sword across her forehead. She begged her fellow soldiers to let her die rather than taking her to the doctor, who would discover she was a woman. They carried her to the doctor anyway. 

After the doctor treated her head wound, she snuck out of the clinic. She got a pocket knife and dug one of the musket balls out of her thigh. She then sewed the skin back together with sewing needle and thread. She tried to dig out the other musket ball, but it was too deep, and so she left it and sewed the wound closed. This is one brave, strong, and tough lady!

After valiantly serving in heavy combat for 17 months she was honorably discharged.

After the war, she married and had three children. When her family struggled financially, she petitioned the government for a pension for her service and her war wounds, which the army had denied because she was a woman. Paul Revere lobbied on her behalf, and Governor John Hancock signed the bill granting her a pension with back pay and interest. She was the second woman in American history to receive a military pension.

In her last years, Deborah gave lectures recounting her war experiences, and promoting gender equality.

During WWII a war ship was named in her honor.


These Founding Mothers are true heroes. They are great role models. Their contribution to the birth of our nation is immeasurable.

We must do more to make everyone, but especially our girls and young women, aware of the outstanding heroes and wonderful role models among the founding mothers.

(Sources: Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation, by Cokie Roberts; American Ride series, BYUtv; “Margaret Corbin,” “Sybil Ludington,” “Mary Hays,” “Deborah Sampson,” Wikipedia; Personal talks and extensive reading on “The Founding Mothers.”)


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