Betsy Ross came into the spotlight recently. I’m not going to succumb to the political dialogue. Betsy Ross deserves better. She was a grand woman that is due more credit than just being a target for an ideological debate. She was an inspiration and her story should be a reminder that hard work, a faith in oneself, and an independent spirit are key to becoming the best version of yourself and maybe even change the world.
Betsy Ross came into my life when I was a little girl. We learned in social studies she was the woman sitting in the chair stitching our first American Flag in 1776. The year the continental states were in a bitter war with Britain to obtain freedom from a tyrannical monarchy. The continental states were a young nation of thinkers, tinkers and dreamers who believed in inalienable rights that granted people from all walks of life the ability to live freely, independently, and as happily as one could muster. It was a strange concept–the idea of born freedoms outside of bloodlines, economic status, country and heritage. But for the people who had settled, endured hardships, created something from nothing, and produced generations to follow, freedom seemed like the natural state of affairs. Thus, a country was born!
This was the world of Betsy Ross. She was a common, working class woman, living in the “uncivilized” states, with people from all walks of life, religions, cultures, trades and levels of education. Her world wasn’t simple and sweet. It was fraught with struggles, inequality, slavery, injustices, and a battle to find a sense of humanity among so many different people. But in the face of a world that was in chaos, change, exploration, expectations, and struggles, she was never deterred to be true to herself, work hard, push forward and live a life of personal fulfillment, creating a legacy we honor today.
A Quaker, and an apprentice to an upholsterer, she defied her parents and eloped with a fellow apprentice who was the son of an Episcopal rector, expelling her from her Quaker church and family roots. They opened up shop together before her husband joined the militia, and died two years later. Betsy acquired his property and kept up the upholstery business, working day and night to make flags for Pennsylvania. She married again, having two daughters, but her husband died in a British prison. Her third marriage was to a man who was imprisoned with her second husband. He was freed upon the Treaty of Paris–ending the Revolutionary War, and they eventually had a family of five children. Over the next decade, Betsy and her daughters sewed upholstery and made flags and banners for the new nation. She retired with failing vision, and died in 1836 at age 84.
Betsy Ross was an example of what many women of her time endured: widowhood, single motherhood, managing household, owing property, and remarrying for economic reasons. Her strength is a prime example of the true will of women who helped this country survive during war, and set the standard of the women who would follow. Her iconic symbolism is not the true story of this woman. Courage, strength, and a will of her own is the true heroism and memory of Betsy Ross.
It is this heroism and strength that I embrace as I take on my own struggles in a world, still filled with chaos. But it is because of her that I know my work, my writings, and my desire to create beauty in the world means something. My small life is not without merit. Betsy Ross proved that. Write, and let your spirit change the world in ways you never will be able to predict.