4 Women Revolutionary War-Era Heroes Your History Class Forgot to Mention

Updated: Mar. 25, 2022

Though they may not always be mentioned in textbooks, these courageous ladies fought for the freedoms we have today.

women warheroes abigail adamsLibrary of Congress
Abigail Adams, a forgotten female hero of the Revolutionary War.

Abigail Adams (1744-1818): The Counsel

A patriot from the earliest days of the Revolutionary War, Abigail Adams supplied the troops stationed near her Boston Harbor home with ammunition. (When she saw they had no bullets, she collected all the silver and steel she could find in her house and melted it down for the soldiers to use in battle). Years later, when her husband John Adams served as the nation’s second president, she became one of the first women to fight for women’s suffrage and acted as an unofficial advisor to her President-husband. Her guidance is documented in their steadfast correspondence. In letters, she pleaded with him to “Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could.”

Sybil Ludington (1761-1839): The Whistleblower 

At just 16 years old, Ludington rode on horseback to warn the Patriot militia of an impending British attack. Her ride took place on the night of April 26, 1777 (just one week after Paul Revere’s more famous journey), when she left her home to warn her father’s troops that the British had invaded Danbury, Connecticut, looting and burning everything in their way. Her ride covered nearly 40 miles (more than twice the length of Paul Revere’s) through Putnam and Duchess Counties in New York. The troops were too late to stop the attack, but the early heads-up gave them time to prepare and gather their troops to fight back against the British army.

women war heroes mercy otis warrenLibrary of Congress
Mercy Otis Warren, a Revolutionary War woman who was highly influential in her time.

Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814): The “Conscience”

Known as the “Conscience of the American Revolution,” Mercy Otis Warren’s accomplishments were practically unthinkable for women of her time. Her intellect was so valued that men like Samuel and John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and General Henry Knox asked for her opinion on political matters. She wrote political satire for local Massachusetts newspapers anonymously so she could be published (women writers faced hostility as well as the high chance of being rejected). In 1805, she finally published “History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution” under her own name—the first ever published history of the American Revolution.

Deborah Sampson (1760-1827): The Fighter

Deborah Sampson was the Revolutionary War’s Joan of Arc. A Massachusetts native, she was passionate for the cause of the Revolutionary War and wanted to help. At 18 years old, Sampson disguised herself as a man—Robert Shirtliffe—so she could fight. She pretended to be a man for more than two years; after she became too sick to fight, General George Washington himself supplied enough money to ensure her safe homecoming. After Sampson returned home to Massachusetts, the state granted her a pension and land for serving in the war, a reward previously granted to only male soldiers.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest