In light of the fact that I came up with this brilliant series around Independence Day, it is fitting that the first woman I spotlight is one from the American Revolution. However, being that your average history of the American Revolution is completely devoid of women, I had never heard of Nancy Hart until I looked up “women in the American revolution” on Google. (Public education fail.)
Nancy Hart is best known for holding six British soldiers at gunpoint. The legend says British soldiers killed her last turkey and entered her home, demanding she cook the turkey for them to eat. She did so, while administering alcohol with the intent to inebriate the soldiers.
While the men were eating, she sent her daughter to fetch water from the well and blow a conch shell there to warn Hart’s husband of the danger. Meanwhile, she started sneaking the soldiers’ muskets out the window while they ate in a drunken state. After two muskets were put outside, she was caught. The third gun in hand, she threatened to shoot anyone who came near her. One soldier tried to stop her and was killed. She kept the rest of the soldiers at bay until her husband arrived.
Hart’s husband thought they soldiers should be shot, but Hart thought that action was too good for them. Instead, the soldiers were hanged from a nearby tree.
That’s quite the story. And a group of skeletons found in 1912 lend credence to the story. However, that’s not all Hart did.
She also worked as a spy, dressing up as a man and infiltrating British camps to glean information from the soldiers; was knowledgeable in frontier medicine; worked as a midwife; was skilled as a sharpshooter; may have blinded a British soldier with lye soap she was boiling when she caught him spying on her. She was a woman of many talents.
Much of the information surrounding her is legend and not as well documented as the exploits of various historical men. Nonetheless, what we know of Hart is she was a bold woman who contributed what she could to the Revolution–which was a lot!
So the next time Independence Day rolls around, remember all the women who contributed to that independence we as Americans hold dear. Remember Nancy Hart, and learn about more revolutionary women, too.