“Independence” Bios

Declaration of Independence

declaration (1)


Left to Right: Snake Woman, Mary Goddard, Penelope Barker, Cree Woman






  1. Snake Woman – Shoshone – Woman of the Snake-Tribe. Woman of the Cree- Tribe, Karl Bodmer 1839. Read more about the Shoshone here: http://www.nrcprograms.org/site/PageServer?pagename=airc_res_id_bandofshos
  1. Mary Katherine Goddard (1738 – 1816) was a newspaper and book publisher and may have been the first female postmaster in colonial America. She printed the second copy of the Declaration of Independence, the first that had the signers names. Mary continued to publish The Maryland Journal throughout the Revolutionary War, never missing an issue. Her shop was an important hub of information, combining the post and publishing. During the war, she sometimes kept the post running by paying the post riders out of her own pocket.

In 1789, Mary was forced out of her postmaster position when the postmaster appointed a man, his political ally, to the position. Over 200 Baltimore business owners petitioned for her reinstatement, but they were unsuccessful. Mary Goddard was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in 1998. Read more about Mary Katherine Goddard here: https://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/mary-katherine-goddard/

  1. Penelope Barker (1728 – 1796) was the first recorded female political activist in the American colonies. Inspired by the Boston Tea Party, and likewise in response to the Tea Act, Penelope Barker organized a boycott of British goods in North Carolina. In October 1774, ten months after the Boston Tea Party, Barker went door to door, rousing 51 local women to sign her statement opposing British taxation.

Penelope published her protest statement in the colonies and London, saying “We are signing our names to a document, not hiding ourselves behind costumes like the men in Boston did at their tea party. The British will know who we are.” That document is the first recorded political action by women in the American Colonies and inspired women in other colonies to boycott British goods. The boycott was known as the Edenton Tea Party. Read more about Penelope Barker here: http://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/penelope-barker/

  1. Cree WomanWoman of the Snake-Tribe. Woman of the Cree- Tribe, Karl Bodmer 1839 Read more about the Cree here: http://www.creeculture.ca/

declaration (2)


Left to Right: Mary Dickinson, Lenape Woman, Elizabeth Freeman.





  1. Mary “Polly” (née Norris) Dickinson (1740 – 1803) was known for her participation in political conversation around the Constitutional Convention, her marriage to Founding Father John Dickinson, and ownership of one of the largest libraries in the American colonies.

“Polly” was well educated and owned and managed a large estate in Philadelphia. The Norris family were members of the Quaker Meeting, where women held equal positions to men due to the Quaker belief that “in souls there is no sex.” Her home, Fairhill, was an important meeting site for Quaker women, where they followed and engaged in debates about the American Revolution. Polly bequeathed much of her library, nearly 1,500 books, and 500 acres of her land to the first college founded in the United States. Read more about Mary Norris here: http://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2011/05/mary-norris-dickinson.html

  1. Lenape Woman –  Penn’s Treaty with the Indians, Benjamin West 1771. Read more about the Lenape here: http://www.lenapenation.org/main.html

7. Elizabeth Freeman (c. 1742 – 1829) was one of the first enslaved black women to successfully sue for freedom. Inspired by the Massachusetts Constitution, “All men are born free and equal”, Elizabeth brought her case to abolitionist lawyer, Theodore Sedgwick. The jury ruled in her favor and the family that enslaved her had to pay her 30 shillings and cost. Her case set a precedent, implicitly ending slavery in Massachusetts.

After she gained her freedom, Elizabeth Freeman worked for the Sedgwicks and was well known for her skills as a midwife, nurse, and healer. Read more about Elizabeth Freeman here: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/freeman-elizabeth-mum-bett-1742-1829

declaration (3)


Top Left to Right: Anonymous Woman and Annis Stockton

Bottom Left to Right: Mammy Kate and Judith Sargent



  1. Anonymous Woman  – Slaves Waiting for Sale, Eyre Crowe 1856. Read more about Slaves Waiting for Sale here: http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2013/01/slaves_waiting_for_sale_eyre_crowes_abolitionist_painting_image_of_the_week.html
  1. Annis Boudinot Stockton (1736 – 1801) was a prolific American poet and one of the first women to be published in the American colonies. She published her first poem at age 16 and went on to author of more than 120 works, 21 of which were published in the leading magazines and newspapers of the day. She wrote on political and social topics, as well as, odes, elegies, epitaphs, hymns, pastorals, and sonnets. She was widely read in the colonies as well as in England and France.

Annis was married to Richard Stockton one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Read more about Annis Stockton here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annis_Boudinot_Stockton

  1. Mammy Kate was the first black woman to be honored as a patriot of the Revolutionary War in the the state of Georgia.

Mammy Kate, an enslaved woman, saved the life of her slaveholder, future Governor of Georgia, Stephen Heard. In 1779, Stephen Heard was captured by the British and sentenced to death. Mammy Kate convinced the British to let her into the prison to care for Heard and do his laundry. On the day of his execution Mammy Kate secreted Heard into a large basket of dirty linens, and carried him to freedom. Heard released her from bondage and deeded her a small tract of land and a four room house. She continued to serve the Heard family until her death and was buried in the Heard family plot. Mammy Kate’s act of heroism was recognized by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Sons of the American Revolution in 2011.  Read more about Mammy Kate here: http://kate-book.com/trivia-revolutionary-war-heroine-mammy-kate/

  1. Judith Sargent (1751 – 1820) was a prominent essayist, poet, playwright, and one of the first advocates for women’s rights in the American colonies. She wrote the essay, On the Equality of Sexes in 1779, thirteen years before the publication of Mary Woolstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Judith was the first American to have a play produced in Boston and the first American woman to self-publish a book, The Gleaner.

Sargent’s husband, John Murray, was the founder of Universalist denomination in the United States. Judith held a leadership role in Universalist Church, and was one of the Universalists, whose case in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, won the first ruling for religious freedom in the nation. Her catechism was the first Universalist writing by an American woman. In her Universalist writing she asserted the equality of men and women, which became a hallmark of the faith. Read more about Judith Sargent here: http://www.jsmsociety.com/Biography.html

declaration (4)


Left to Right: Seenauki, Chée-ah-ká-tchée, and Lucy Terry.






  1. Seenauki – Yamacraw/Creek women –Audience Given by the Trustees of Georgia to a Delegation of Creek Indians, by William Verelst 1734. Read more about the Yamacraw here: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/yamacraw-indians
  1. Chée-ah-ká-tchéeIroquois woman – Chée-ah-ká-tchée, Wife of Nót-to-way, George Catlin 1835-36. Read more about the Iroquois here: http://www.herizons.ca/node/566
  1. Lucy Terry (c. 1730 – 1821) was an accomplished orator and the first African American poet. To protect her home and lands from threatening white neighbors she persuaded the governor of Vermont to grant their legal protection. Lucy argued for over three hours to the Williams College board for her son to be admitted to study there, but was ultimately unsuccessfully. When a white neighbor tried to steal her land she argued the case against two prominent lawyers, one who later became the chief justice of Vermont. Lucy argued the case up in the Supreme Court, and won.

Lucy Terry is most famous for her ballad, Bars Fight, about an attack on settlers by local native Americans in 1746. Bars Fight is the oldest known work of literature by an African American. Read more about Lucy Terry here: http://www.womenhistoryblog.com/2008/09/lucy-terry-prince.html

declaration (5)


Left to Right: Abigail Adams, Jenny Slew, and Nancy Ward.





  1. Abigail Smith Adams (1744 – 1818) advocated for equality and influenced the birth of the United States. She was the wife of and unofficial advisor to John Adams, American revolutionary, signer of the Declaration of Independence, first Vice President, and second President of the United States. As the second First Lady, Abigail was so politically active she was given the nickname, Mrs. President. She was an ardent advocate for married women’s property rights and the abolition of slavery.

Abigail and John corresponded throughout their marriage, with John seeking Abigail’s advice on political matters. Historian Joseph Ellis said that Abigail was a better writer than her husband, more resilient and emotionally balanced and one of the most extraordinary women in American history. She famously wrote to Adams, during the Continental Congress, “…remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.” Read more about Abigail Adams here: http://www.firstladies.org/biographies/firstladies.aspx?biography=2

  1. Jenny Slew (c. 1719) was born a free woman, child of a white woman and an enslaved black man. In 1762, she was kidnapped and enslaved by John Whipple. Jenny sued for her freedom, charging that her mother was a free woman and she was a free woman, and that she was being held illegally. Whipple countered that she had no legal right to sue him as she was married and married women could not sue on their own behalf.

In 1766, Jenny took her case to a jury in Salem, MA, arguing that she was not married at the time of the trial and that, according to the state’s laws against interracial marriage, her marriages to enslaved men were not legally valid. The jury found in her favor and Jenny Slew was awarded her freedom,  £4 in damages and £5 in costs. Jenny Slew may have been the first person to granted rightful freedom through trial by jury.  Read more about Jenny Slew here: https://ipswich.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/freedom-for-jenny-slew/

  1. Nancy Ward/Nanyehi (ca. 1738 – 1822) was a Beloved Woman of the Cherokee, a member of the council of chiefs, leader of the women’s council, and ambassador for her people. At the battle of Taliwa, Nancy’s husband, Kingfisher, was killed. She took his rifle and helped win the battle. She was given the title “Ghigau”, Beloved Woman, for her heroic deeds.

Nancy used her power as a Ghigau to spare the life of Lydia Russell Bean during a Cherokee attack on Fort Watauga in Tennessee. Mrs. Bean taught Nancy a weaving technique that revolutionized Cherokee clothing and changed the roles of Cherokee women, from planters to weavers and introduced dairy cows to Nancy, who taught the Cherokee to raise cattle and drink dairy.

During the Revolutionary War, Nancy warned American soldiers of attacks, and negotiated a peace treaty with the Americans. Later in life, she advised the Cherokee not to continue to sell their lands to white settlers but the lands were sold and she and many others were forced to move. Nancy was the last woman to receive the title Beloved Woman until the 1980s. Read more about Nancy Ward here: https://www.nwhm.org/education-resources/biography/biographies/nanye-hi-nancy-ward/

declaration (6)Top Left to Right:        Koon-za-ya-me and Elizabeth Ferguson. 

Bottom Left to Right:            

3 Anonymous Women





  1. Koon-za-ya-me, Iowa, Koon-za-ya-me, George Catlin 1844 Read more about the Ioway here: http://ioway.nativeweb.org/index.htm
  1. Elizabeth Graeme Ferguson (1737 – 1801) was a poet and writer, who ran the first literary salon in America from her home in Philadelphia, PA. Her weekly, “Attic Evenings” were attended by the best and brightest of Philadelphia society, of which Elizabeth was one of the intellectual stars. She published over 30 works of poetry in regional magazines and newspapers, translated Bible Psalms into verse, and 30,000 lines of Telemachus from the original French. She was well-educated in Latin, Greek and fluent in French and Italian. But, Elizabeth was perhaps best known for her witty and engaging travelogue, written of her travels abroad, where she met British nobility, including King George.

During the Revolution, Elizabeth’s husband sided with the British and travelled back to England, but Elizabeth stayed in Philadelphia, giving generously to the cause, housing soldiers from Washington’s army in her home, and spinning flax into cotton for American prisoner’s clothing. Her husband’s loyalty to the British caused her much hardship, as she lost her family estate. Elizabeth was separated from her husband, and fell into ill health, but she continued to write poetry and was published for the first time. Read more about Elizabeth Graeme Ferguson here: https://horshamhistory.org/Elizabeth-Graeme-Fergusson

20.-22. 3 Anonymous Woman  – Slaves Waiting for Sale, Eyre Crowe 1856. Read more about Slaves Waiting for Sale here: http://www.theroot.com/articles/culture/2013/01/slaves_waiting_for_sale_eyre_crowes_abolitionist_painting_image_of_the_week.html

declaration (7)


Left to Right: Phillis Wheatley, Molly Brant, and Mary Otis Warren.




  1. Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753 – 1784) was the first African American to publish poetry. At age seven, she was enslaved to the Wheatley family in Boston, where she was given the opportunity to excel at reading, writing, Latin, Greek, astronomy, and other classical subjects. Phillis published her first poem at age 13 and a book of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, in 1773. The year before she had to defend her authorship of her poetry in court to various member of the Boston Elite, including John Hancock.

Though Phillis had gained fame no publisher in Boston would publish her works. Phillis sailed to London where she gained patronage and was finally published.

In 1778, Wheatley was legally freed from slavery, 3 months before her slaveholder died. At that time, she was one of the most famous African Americans in the Western World. Her poetry is a progenitor of the genre of African American literature and a catalyst for the abolitionist movement. She is the first African American woman to publish a book and the first to making a living as a writer. Read more about Phillis Wheatley here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/phillis-wheatley

  1. Mary “Molly” Brant/Konwatsi’tsiaienni (c.1736 – 1796) was an influential Mohawk woman, who was loyal to the British during the Revolutionary War. Her younger brother was Joseph Brant, a Mohawk leader, and her husband, and father of her eight children, was William Johnson, the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs.  

Molly was eighteen when she joined a group of Mohawk Elders to Philadelphia to discuss fraudulent land transactions. Soon after, Molly went to live with William Johnson at Johnson Hall, where she managed their estate and worked to positively influence the relationship between the British and the Iroquois. In 1774, her husband died and Molly went back to her Mohawk Village in New York with her children and encouraged the Iroquois to fight alongside the British, as she felt the British were more likely to protect the Iroquois lands than the American Settlers.

Ultimately, the British lost the war and no provisions for Iroquois land was made. Molly and her family were pushed north into Canada. The United States offered Molly compensation to return from Canada and use her influence with Native Americans for their cause. She refused. In 1994, Brant was honored as a Person of National Historic Significance in Canada. Read more about Molly Brant here: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/konwatsitsiaienni_4E.html

  1. Mary Otis Warren (1728 – 1814) , known as the “Conscience of the American Revolution”, was a political writer who was close friends with most of the leaders of the Revolutionary War. She was a patriot whose poems, plays, and pamphlets urged the colonies to resist British control. Her husband, James Warren, was the President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Mercy and James were very politically active and their home was a meeting place for the revolutionaries, including Sam and John Adams. John Adams said, of Mercy  “of all the geniuses which have yet arisen in America, there has been none superior.”

Mercy was also known as the “Mother of the Bill of Rights”. She opposed the ratification of the new constitution and in her Observations on the New Constitution she argued that it should be amended to spell out specific rights, like freedom of speech and right to trial by jury.

She was the first woman to write a history of the American Revolution, Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution. In 2002, Mercy was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, New York. Read more about Mercy Otis Warren here: http://college.cengage.com/english/lauter/heath/4e/students/author_pages/eighteenth/warren_me.html

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s