A portrait of Abigail Adams, one of the Founding Mothers.

Abigail Adams, one of the Founding Mothers.
Image: Shutterstock

In 1973, historian Richard B. Morris narrowed the Founding Fathers down to seven key figures: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington. Most of us are familiar with these names, as we learned about their accomplishments during early civics education.

But not a lot of us are familiar with names like Phillis Wheatley, Martha Washington, or Mercy Otis Warren. These women played a crucial role in the establishment of the U.S. As such, we owe a great deal of respect to their namesake.

Below is a list of seven Founding Mothers; one to match each of the seven Founding Fathers identified by Richard B. Morris. Read their biographies and let us know which is your favorite in the comments below.

Civics Lesson: Women in the Military

An old poster of a woman in the military. The poster reads, "This is my war too. Women's Auxiliary Corps. United States Army."Women weren’t allowed to join the military in the U.S. until the last two years of World War I (1917-1918). But women have been serving in unofficial capacities years before then.

During the Revolutionary War, women took on a variety of roles. Most served in traditional positions such as nurses, cooks, and maids. However, some took on unconventional roles as secret soldiers and spies.

Image: Shutterstock

1. Abigail Adams

Born November 11, 1744, Abigail Adams was way ahead of her time. She was a huge advocate for women’s rights, and served as an adviser to husband John Adams. In a letter dated March 31, 1776, Abigail famously wrote:

“Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation.”

Her son, John Quincy Adams, became the sixth president of the U.S.

2. Phillis Wheatley

At the young age of seven, Phillis Wheatley was kidnapped from her home in West Africa and brought to Massachusetts via slave ship.

She was purchased by the Wheatley family, who taught her how to read and write. She made history as the first published African American poet.

In 1776, Wheatley was invited to meet George Washington in Cambridge. She had a strong affinity for Washington, and fully supported his vision of American independence.

3. Deborah Sampson

In 1781, Deborah Sampson joined the Continental Army under the guise of Robert Shurtlieff. She bravely fought alongside her fellow countrymen until her true identity was discovered nearly two years later. Her husband Benjamin was awarded military spousal pay following her death in 1827.

4. Martha Washington

Martha Washington’s legacy extends far beyond being the first FLOTUS. During the Revolutionary War, Washington worked tirelessly to support, nurse, and aid soldiers. She played a crucial role during the infamous frigid winter in Valley Forge, where she provided troops with food, warm socks, and health resources.

5. Judith Sargent Murray

Judith Sargent Murray was a renowned American essayist, best known for her work On the Equality of the Sexes. She was one of the earliest advocates for women’s rights, and fervently fought for female education.

6. Esther Reed

Originally from London, Esther De Berdt married American Joseph Reed in 1770 and moved to Philadelphia shortly thereafter. In 1780, she organized the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, which provided aid to soldiers during the war.

7. Mercy Otis Warren

“Democratic principles are the result of equality of condition,” Mercy Otis Warren once wrote. The prominent writer is the author of a three-volume work titled A History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution. At the time, professional female writers were not very common. The success of her work paved the way for future women authors.

Did you enjoy this article? If so, help us get a conversation going around women’s history using #FoundingMothers.

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