Deborah Sampson: America's First Woman Warrior
By Alma H. Bond, Ph.D.
The first woman who "officially" served in the American army during the American Revolution was Deborah Sampson. Destined to become a mother of four with a dozen grandchildren, she volunteered for service before she was 21-years-old, was wounded in action, and even captured. She was acknowledged as a soldier by the U.S. government and, through an act of Congress, was the first woman to be placed on the pension list. Unfortunately, few Americans then or now have ever heard of Deborah Sampson.
Though the exact date is not known, in early May of 1782, Deborah – who was then living in Middleborough, Massachusetts – slipped out of her dress and stepped into a man's suit. She was boarding at the home of Deacon Thomas on the outskirts of town. She had been supporting herself by teaching school in the summer and, in the winter, spinning wool at the homes of various Middleborough families. But she wanted much more.
Deborah had dark-blond hair, soft and fine, drawn straight behind her ears, hanging in thick curls to her waist in the feminine style of the day. She did not have a pretty face, but her features were regular, as shown in the portrait painted of her when she was forty. Her large, hazel eyes were tinctured with blue, her mouth was of generous size. Her nose had a noble, slight Romanesque cast. Her skin was white and soft in spite of years of lye soapings. Her voice was low and sweet.
Standing five feet, seven inches, Deborah was very tall for a woman in that time. Her figure was sturdy, stolid. Years of hard physical labor had given her strong arms and legs. Despite these qualities which usually are identified with men, her long blond curls, soft, white skin, and sweet, low voice make it difficult to think of her as having a...