If you asked me to create a Hall of Fame for American Revolution heroes, I would start with my favorite Founding Fathers and Founding Mothers. I’m so proud of my American heritage and all of our American history heroes!
When I teach history the fun way, I try to travel back in time and meet the people who made history. It is exciting to see that many of our American heroes loved Jesus Christ with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strength.
Let me introduce some of my favorite Founding Mothers to you. (You can also read My Founding Fathers Hall of Fame)
Abigail Smith Adams (1744-1818) was the first Second Lady and the second First Lady. She was brilliant and advised her husband throughout his prestigious career while being a devoted wife and mother throughout her life. She often took other children under wing, including the daughter of President Thomas Jefferson.
Born into a pastor’s family in Massachusetts, Abigail was homeschooled. She was very smart, opinionated, and practical! She married John Adams, a country lawyer and they were blessed with 6 children, four who made it to adulthood.
She and John were often apart due to his role in the American Revolution and responsibilities for the young United States of America. Their letters are a delight to read—not only for the tender love between them, but for Abigail’s wit and strong opinions of how things should be done. She had a huge impact on the nation through her husband John, the second President of the USA and her son John Quincey, the sixth President of the United States. Yes, she was both a wife and a mother of an American President.
When John served in ambassador posts in Paris and London, Abigail went with him, though it was a challenge for her to adapt to European culture.
Unlike the quiet Martha Washington, First Lady Abigail Adams took an active role in politics when her husband was elected President. She held a large dinner in their home each week for all kinds of guests and planned the Fourth of July celebration each year in Philadelphia. She also appeared frequently in public and was so active in government that her enemies called her “Mrs. President.” There were several children in her family that had fathers who were alcoholics so she rescued them from their poverty by moving them into the President’s house to live to mother them.
She is probably the most famous of all the first ladies and even today people take her advice to heart.
Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (1789-1802) was thrust in the world of politics and served her nation as the first First Lady of the brand new United States. She was an intensely private person and was crazy about her husband President George Washington.
Born on a wealthy plantation in Virginia, Martha married wealthy Daniel Parke Custis, 20 years older than she, at the age of 18. By the time she was 25, she was a widow with 4 children. Wise and hardworking, she ran the 5 plantations her husband left behind. Two men wanted to marry her: the wealthy Charles Carter and the dashing George Washington. After honeymooning for several weeks, they moved to the Washington plantation Mount Vernon.
Two of her four children died early. Patsy died during an epileptic seizure in her teens, so only her son John Parke “Jacky” Custis made it to adulthood. He married Eleanor Calvert in 1774.
During the Revolutionary War, her son John was serving as an aid to her husband when he died of typhus. Martha and George helped raise two of his children: Eleanor (Nelly) Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis. They were also extremely generous to nieces and nephews.
During the war, she joined her husband each winter. She adored her husband overcame her shy nature to follow his dreams and sense of duty.
As First Lady, Martha was kind and gracious, yet very quiet. It was really at Mount Vernon that her gifting as a gracious and loving hostess was the most visible. Delicious food, a warm environment, and plenty of good conversation was always available there. She managed the estate when her husband was away and was his biggest fan.
Martha valued privacy and so when George Washington died, she destroyed all of their letters to one another. It would be so much to know more about their life and love, but we can tell that there was a deep love and respect for one another, their family, and the Lord. Martha’s willingness to walk in so many new adventures as a shy woman is certainly a testimony to her fortitude. George chose wisely in marrying Martha!
Eliza Lucas Pinckney
Elizabeth (Eliza) Lucas Pinckney (1722-1793) developed indigo as an important crop in colonial South Carolina. She was also the mother of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a signer of the Constitution and Federalist candidate for President, and Thomas Pinckney who negotiated Pinckney’s Treaty in 1795 to protect USA navigation rights on the Mississippi River.
Eliza was born and grew up on a sugarcane plantation in Antigua. As a young teenager, she traveled to London to complete her education at boarding school. Her favorite subject was botany.
Eliza’s father inherited 3 plantations in South Carolina and decided to move the family to North America because things were heating up between Spain and England. Called away on business to Antigua, Eliza was left to manage the plantations (tar, timber, and rice) with her younger siblings still at boarding school in London.
Now she put her education into action! She experimented with ginger, cotton, alfalfa, hemp, and indigo. Soon, she had a successful crop! She shared her seed with other planters and indigo production exploded!
After rejecting two suitors her father proposed to her, Eliza fell in love with a widower from a neighboring plantation. She married Charles Pinckney in 1744 and God blessed them with 5 children, 3 who survived to adulthood. Charles had an education in law and was very involved in South Carolina politics. He was the Speaker of the Commons House of Assembly from 1736-1740 which took them to Charleston. While Charles worked hard in politics, Eliza was planting a beautiful garden and corresponding with botanists from England.
In 1758, Charles died. As a young widow, Eliza managed several plantations and staying connected to her family and friends all over the southern colonies. When she died in 1793, George Washington served as a pallbearer at her funeral.
Eliza was part of a bustling political family, but she managed to use her love of botany to bless South Carolina in a unique way with a cash crop that would help produce money to fund the American Revolution. That’s what I call a successful home business!
Mary Ludwig Hays
Mary Ludwig Hays (1744-1832) fought in the Battle of Monmouth in the American Revolution and is considered by many to be the famous Molly Pitcher. Born into a German butcher’s family in Trenton, New Jersey, she grew up and married William Hays, a barber from Pennsylvania.
William Hays enlisted in the Continental Army in 1777 and Molly (her nickname) joined her husband at Valley Forge where many women, including Martha Washington, wintered.
William trained to be an artilleryman and Mary would carry water to the troops drilling on the field.
In June 1778, Molly was carrying water to soldiers in the midst of the Battle of Monmouth under heavy artillery fire! William was wounded in battle and carried off the field. So, Mary took his place swabbing and loading the cannon. A musket ball or cannonball actually flew right between her legs, tearing the bottom off her skirt. But, Molly kept loading the cannon.
General George Washington was so impressed with her that he made her a non-commissioned officer, giving her the nickname Sergeant Molly.
Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton
Wealthy and influential, Elizabeth (Eliza) Schuyler’s Dutch father was a
Continental General and a devoted Christian, part of the Dutch Reformed Church. Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton (1757-1854) grew up with a deep devotion to Jesus Christ. As a little girl, she accompanied her father to a meeting of the Six Nations, a powerful confederacy of northeast Native tribes. She also met Benjamin Franklin when he was a house guest of the family.
On a visit to Morristown, New Jersey, she met one of George Washington’s
very handsome aides-de-camp while the Continental Army wintered nearby. Their whirlwind courtship took place through letters. In April, Alexander Hamilton asked her father for her hand in marriage. After a brief honeymoon, she followed Alexander in his duties as an officer in the American Revolution. She helped Alexander with his political writings, many of which are in her handwriting. She definitely acted as his secretary and most likely as his advisor.
The Lord blessed the Hamiltons with 8 children. Eliza even took in a
friend’s child and raised her as a daughter when the woman died. She and
Alexander hosted many parties and worked very hard to get the Constitution ratified. She worked as his secretary up until the wee hours of the morning.
She also had a burden for orphans. In 1804, at the age of 47, her husband
died in a dual with Aaron Burr. Soon afterward, she lost both her parents.
After Alexander’s death, she had to sell most of their property, including her
house to pay off his debt. Then she helped open an orphanage and years later, served as directress of the New York Orphan Asylum Society for 27 years. She lived generously for 97 years, serving orphans and honoring her husband’s memory.
Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton played a huge part in the Constitution and other federal policies, as well as spearheading the American tradition of
Dolley Payne Todd Madison (1768-1849) was the wife of President James Madison, the fourth President of the brand new United States. She is remembered for saving the artwork in the White House when the British burned it down.
Dolley was born into a devout Quaker family and was raised on a plantation in Virginia. After the War of Independence, the family freed their slaves.
Dolley married John Todd in 1790. They lived in Philadelphia where John practiced law. Soon they had two sons. After a yellow fever epidemic swept through Philadelphia, everyone in Dolley’s family died except for Dolley and her son John Payne Todd. Eventually, Dolley fell in love with and married James Madison who was quite a bit older than she. James was not a Quaker, so Dolley was expelled from the Society of Friends, but she joined him at the Episcopal Church. They stayed in Philadelphia while Madison served as a Representative.
In 1797, James and Dolley headed back to the Madison family plantation Montpelier in Virginia. However, in 1800, when Thomas Jefferson became the third President of the United States, the couple relocated to the new capital Washington, D.C. because James Madison became the new Secretary of State. Dolley took Washington, D.C. by storm as a charming hostess and engaging friend. People loved her and enjoyed her hospitality. She helped to make her husband popular. When her husband became President in the new White House, Dolley was the one to furnish the new White House.
During his Presidential term, America went back to war with England with the War of 1812. The British attacked Washington, D.C. and burned the White House. Staying calm in the midst of flames, she directed the saving of many precious works of art, including the Landsdowne Portrait of George Washington.
After serving the nation as First Lady, Dolley returned with her husband to Montpelier. Unfortunately, they had to sell many possessions and mortgage the plantation to rescue her son John from debtor’s prison. She was able to keep going financially by gathering all her husband’s papers to sell to Congress after his death.
Dolley brought life and joy wherever she went. She is the only First Lady to have an honorary seat in Congress and was probably the most popular hostess Washington, D.C. ever saw!
Until next time, Happy Homeschooling!