- Betsy Ross
Betsy Ross (
January 1, 1752– January 30, 1836) was an American woman said to have sewn the first American flagwhich incorporated stars representing the first thirteen colonies, [Gene Langley, "The legend and truth of Betsy Ross," "Christian Science Monitor" 94.141 (6/14/2002): 22.] though "many details (about her life) are conjecture based on research." [Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, "Review of "The Life and Times of Betsy Ross" and "The Life and Times of Nathan Hale"," "School Library Journal" 53.7 (Jul 2007).]
Ross was born Elizabeth Griscom to parents Sam and Rebecca in
Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniaon January 1, 1752, the eighth of 17 children.Independence Hall Association. [http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/flaglife.html Betsy Ross: Her Life] . Accessed 11 March 2008.] She "grew up in a household where the plain dress and strict discipline of the Society of Friends dominated her life."William C. Kashatus, "Seamstress for a Revolution," "American History", 37.3 (Aug 2002).] She learned to sew from her great-aunt Sarah Griscom.
After she finished her schooling at a Quaker public school, her father apprenticed her to an upholsterer named William Webster. At this job, she fell in love with fellow apprentice John Ross (born about 1752), son of an assistant rector Aeneas Ross (Sarah Leach) at (Episcopal) Christ Church.
As interdenominational marriages typically led to being read out of their Quaker meeting, the couple eloped in 1773 when she was 21, and married at Hugg's Tavern in Gloucester,
New Jersey. The marriage caused a split from her family and meant her "expulsion from the Quaker congregation." The young couple soon started their own upholstery business and joined Christ Church.
The Revolutionary War
The Rosses were financially stressed by the outbreak of the
American Revolutionary War. The fabrics they depended on grew scarce, and business slowed considerably. John joined the Pennsylvania militia and was seriously injured by the explosion of an ammunition cachein mid-January 1776. He soon died and was buried in Christ Church Burial Ground.
After her first husband's death, Ross joined the "Fighting Quakers" which, unlike traditional Quakers, supported the war effort. In June 1777, she married sea captain Joseph Ashburn at Old Swedes' Church in Philadelphia. British soldiers forcibly occupied their house when they controlled the city in 1777. Following the
Battle of Germantown, she nursed both American and British soldiers.
Betsy Ross is best remembered, however, as a flag maker during the Revolution. Family oral history, supported only by 19th century affidavits, recounts the widowed Ross meeting with
George Washington, George Ross, and Robert Morris at her upholstery business in Philadelphia, a meeting said to have resulted in the sewing of the first U.S. "stars and stripes" flag. According to the story, it was at this meeting, to "silence the men's protests that these new five-pointed stars would be unfamiliar and difficult for seamstresses to make, she folded a piece of paper, made a single scissor snip, and revealed a perfect five-pointed star." [Independence Hall Association. [http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/flaglife.html 5-Pointed Star in One Snip] . Accessed 11 April 2008.]
Evidence that Ross did in fact make flags for the government includes a receipt for her making "ship's colours" for the Pennsylvania Navy in May 1777, as well as a folded star pattern with her name found in a Philadelphia Quaker Society safe. [Lindsey Galloway, [http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/060806/14flag.htm "The Signs Still Point to Ross"] , "U.S. News & World Report" 141.6 (8/14/2006). Accessed 11 April 2008. ] Whether or not Ross made the very "first" stars and stripes has never been proven, however. According to the family legend, many women were making flags when Betsy received her first order. [The history as presented by Betsy Ross' grandson, William Canby, can be found [http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/more/canby.htm online] , accessed 1 August 2008]
Francis Hopkinsonalso took credit for the design of the stars and stripes, which was partially acknowledged by Congress. [ [http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/misc/ourflag/history1.htm Federal Citizen Information Center] Accessed 11 April 2008.]
In May 1783, Ross married John Claypoole, an old friend who had told her of Ashburn's death in a British prison where he and Ashburn had been confined. The couple had five daughters together. He died in 1817 after twenty years of ill health. She continued working in her upholstery business, including making flags for the United States of America, until 1827. After her retirement, she moved in with her married daughter, Susannah Satterthwaite, who continued to operate the business. Ross died in Philadelphia at age 84.
Although it is one of the most visited tourist sites in Philadelphia, [Andrew Carr, "The Betsy Ross House," "American History" 37.3 (Aug 2002): 23.] the claim that Ross once lived at the
Betsy Ross Houseis a matter of dispute. [ [http://www.ushistory.org/betsy/prove239.html "Was This Her House?"] at UShistory.org.]
Interment, re-interment and re-re-interment
Ross's body was first buried at the Free Quaker burial ground on South 5th Street. Twenty years later, her remains were exhumed and reburied in the Mt. Moriah Cemetery in the Cobbs Creek Park section of Philadelphia. In preparation for the
United States Bicentennial, the city ordered the remains moved to the courtyard of the Betsy Ross Housein 1975; however, workers found no remains under her tombstone. Bones found elsewhere in the family plot were deemed to be hers and were re-interred in the current grave visited by tourists at the Betsy Ross House. [ Philadelphia Inquirer, [http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/local/corrections/13230319.htm "Corrections"] , November 22, 2005.]
*Chanko, Pamela. "Easy Reader Biographies: Betsy Ross: The Story of Our Flag" (Easy Reader Biographies). 2007.
*Cohon, Rhody, Stacia Deutsch, and Guy Francis. "Betsy Ross's Star" (Blast to the Past). 2007.
*Cox, Vicki. "Betsy Ross: A Flag For A Brand New Nation" (Leaders of the American Revolution). 2005.
*Harker, John B. and Museum Images & Exhibits. "Betsy Ross's Five Pointed Star". 2005.
*Harkins, Susan Sales and William H. Harkins. "Betsy Ross" (Profiles in American History) (Profiles in American History). 2006.
*Mader, Jan. "Betsy Ross" (First Biographies). 2007.
*Mara, Wil. "Betsy Ross" (Rookie Biographies). 2006.
* [http://www.ushistory.org/betsy Betsy Ross Homepage] from ushistory.org
NAME= Ross, Betsy
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=Griscom, Elizabeth
DATE OF BIRTH=
January 1, 1752
PLACE OF BIRTH=
Philadelphia, Province of Pennsylvania
DATE OF DEATH=
January 30, 1836
PLACE OF DEATH=
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
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