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Debora Sampson

Portrait of Deborah Sampson, a patriot who enlisted in the military as a man and fought in the Revolution.

Library of Congress

Deborah Sampson., 1797. Photograph.

Deborah Sampson was a patriot who enlisted in the military as a man and fought in the Revolutionary War. She served as a scout, which was a dangerous job as she traveled behind enemy lines. When it was discovered that she was a woman, she was discharged. After the Patriots won the war, Sampson asked the military for veteran status, and they agreed, granting her a pension in recognition of her service. Study the image of Sampson, which appeared on the cover of her biography. How was she represented? What are the symbols depicted around her? What does this tell us about how free white women supported the American Revolutionary war effort? What does this image tell us about how Americans valued her service during the war?

Deborah Sampson was the descendent of a Pilgrim family that encountered difficult financial times. She was indentured as a laborer from age 10-18 and then worked as a teacher and weaver. As the war continued, she enlisted under the name, Robert Shurtleff, and went into combat disguised as a soldier. During the war she worked as a scout, engaged in combat, and dug trenches at the siege of Yorktown. Despite injuries, she kept her identity hidden until she fell ill and received treatment at a hospital. She was honorably discharged on October 23, 1783 and went on to petition the government of Massachusetts for a pension, which she received.

In 1802, she went on a lecture tour , describing her experiences. For a full biography of Deborah Sampson visit the National Womens History Museum link at:

Michals, Debra. "Deborah Sampson. " National Women's History Museum. 2015.
www. womenshistory. org/education-resources/biographies/deborah-sampson.

Deborah Sampson
Published by H. Mann, 1797.