As we gather together from sea to shining sea this weekend for fireworks, fellowship, and flag waving celebrating our nation’s birth, we would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the “pertinent pinks” that were a major contributor to the mission of independence our Founding Fathers embarked upon.
Hence – our Founding Mothers!
Abigail Adams – portrait above in blue, white, and an elegant pink sash – the much acclaimed (and rightly so) wife, confidant, and inspiration to one of our most passionate and tireless patriots, John Adams, of Massachusetts, often reminded him, “John, don’t forget the ladies!”
No, Abigail, we will not.
Plenty of pink to be had in the drama of our founding era. Abigail, herself, is worthy of a series of posts on her own contributions, but I will direct my spotlight this weekend to another Pink Patriot, Betsy Ross – she who led the armies of General George Washington into battle – with a needle and thread.
Betsy was an accomplished seamstress from childhood, originally married to an upholsterer, John Ross. They were married at Christ Church – just a hop, skip, and jump down the street from Independence Hall in Philadelphia – and a short block away from her home at the time. John joined the Pennsylvania militia once their upholstery shop suffered financially due to the early rumblings of war. In January of 1776, six months before the Declaration of Independence was signed, while Congress was in hot debate as to secede from England or not, John Ross was killed in an explosion at an ammunition storehouse. Now widowed, Betsy continued to run the upholstery shop – which was basically a place where all manner of sewing jobs were performed.
The story goes that General Washington was in Philadelphia to discuss the need for a Colonies’ standard under which to muster the troops should war be declared and revolution upon them. A flag that was distinctly their own representing the thirteen colonies banding together for independence was wanted, setting the colonists apart from the British Union Jack. He had come up with the colors – red, white, and blue – and a basic idea of stars and stripes. But, who could fashion such a design?
It so happened that serving on this particular committee with Washington was George Ross – Betsy’s uncle. That winter, shortly after the loss of her husband, Uncle George, Washington, and Robert Morris visited Betsy at her home in a hushed meeting to discuss this idea of a flag. They could be arrested for treason should news of this plan fall into British hands. Betsy actually rented some rooms in her home to British soldiers to help make ends meet.
At this meeting, Washington delivered his ideas and Betsy listened carefully to his thoughts on the red and white stripes and white six-pointed stars on a blue field. She was not impressed.
“Wouldn’t it be altogether easier and more pleasing to the eye to have a five pointed star, General?”
“Five points? How would such a thing be fashioned?”
Deftly, Betsy folded a piece of cloth in a seemingly random manner, then clipped the end and opened out a perfect five point star!
SOLD! The job and design goes to the Patriot in Pink! And, Betsy went to work straightaway – in secret – tucked behind a locked door in her bedchamber so as to not be seen by the British under her roof. A brave woman, she even made bullets to support the Revolution in a secret section of her basement right under the nose of the Redcoats!
The flag was finished in late May/early June just in time for the reading aloud of the Declaration of Independence in July at Independence Hall. Bells rang out – three cheers for the red, white, blue, and PINK!
The flag was formally adopted as the nation’s standard a year later in June, 1777:
Oh! don’t miss my special tribute to the 4th: His Story Speaks for Itself! – features historic Founder’s quotes and vintage images. Have a safe and joyful holiday weekend!