Tuesday, August 10, 2010

America's got a Mulan too - Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History

I don't know why they haven't made a movie about this story...

Deborah Sampson was a poor girl with no family growing up in Massachusetts. With no one to hold her back, she became swept up in the patriot cause and "the zeal which had urged the men to quit their homes for the battlefield found its way to a female bosom."

She completely transformed herself into a man: sewing a soldier's uniform, changing her name to "Robert Shurtliff", and enlisting herself in Washington's Army.

She served for three years, during that time she was wounded twice but continued to fight. None of her fellow soldiers ever suspected that "Robert" was a woman, but they did jokingly call her "Molly" because she never grew a beard like the rest of them!

But one day she contracted an extremely high fever that nearly killed her, and when a doctor examined her, he discovered that Robert Shurtliff was definitely not a man. But surprisingly, the doctor protected her identity and allowed her to continue her disguise as she recovered.

When "Robert" returned to the army, the doctor sent her with a letter to George Washington detailing the confidential information, and without saying a word, Washington simply discharged her from the service and gave her money to help her find a place to live.

Years later Washington invited the woman who so fearlessly fought for her country to Congress where she received a pension and some land in recognition of her service. When she died, her husband petitioned Congress for survivor's benefits and Congress said that there was "no other similar example of female heroism, fidelity and courage" and her husband "has proved himself worthy of her, as he has sustained her through a long life of sickness and suffering (which were) occasioned by the wounds she received and the hardships she endured in defense of the country...the committee does not hesitate to grant relief."

Woah! I still cannot get over this story. I just cannot imagine literally going into battle and on top of that being wounded TWICE and still pushing on. I also think it is really interesting how both Washington and Congress handled Deborah's situation. You would think that back then a woman fighting would be viewed as a disgrace and they would have demonished her. But instead they helped her find a place to live and gave her and her family benefits for her service! When I read this story it made me really glad to know that Congress realized her level of service despite the probable shock of her being a woman and fighting at the time.

And that's my two cents.

1 comment:

  1. even cooler than mulan, minus the awesome grandma :)