Deborah Sampson

Deborah Sampson

Imagine how you would feel if you found out that your best buddy, who had fought beside you for a year and a half, was not a man but a woman! Deborah Sampson wanted to join the Continental army so badly that she put on men's clothing, walked to another town, and enlisted as Robert Shurtleff. How did she do it?

Well, obviously, there were no army physicals in those days! And Deborah was taller than most men—five feet seven inches tall. Because her parents were so poor, they had sent Deborah to work on a farm as a young girl, and hard physical labor had made her strong and muscular. The farmer she worked for had ten sons—so Deborah grew up with ten "brothers."

As a soldier, Deborah's combat experience included hand-to-hand struggles in which she demonstrated strength, courage, and loyalty. She suffered a sword wound to her forehead, and a musket ball pierced her thigh—but she dug it out herself rather than have a doctor discover her secret! During a later hospitalization for a fever, however, a physician got the surprise of his life, and Deborah was honorably discharged from the army. She returned home, married a farmer, and had three children. Paul Revere later helped her receive a pension for her military service.

Deborah trail blazed another first—she became one of the nation's first professional female lecturers and traveled throughout New England sharing her experiences in the military. As a grand finale, she would put on her military uniform and perform military drills. In 1983, the governor of Massachusetts proclaimed her the official heroine of the state.

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