Brave Mothers in US History: Survival, Resiliency, and Love
With Mother’s Day around the corner, we’ve been thinking about the amazing mothers who have shaped our lives.
Beyond our individual mothers who brought us into the world, there are generations of moms who shaped America for us. These women braved new lands, enemies, and threats to stake their claims on this land we now call our own. We owe a debt of gratitude to their survival mindsets and resilient natures – and we can learn much from them.
Today, let’s take some time to reflect on some of the strong survivalist mothers in American history.
Mad Anne Bailey
Anne Hennis Trotter Bailey, known as “Mad Anne,” was a married mother in Virginia who worked as a frontier scout and messenger during the Revolutionary War.
According to the History Channel, “After learning of her husband’s death, Mad Anne showed her mettle: She dressed in buckskin pants and a petticoat, left her son with neighbors—and sought revenge. With rifle, hunting knife and tomahawk in hand, Anne became a scout and messenger recruiting volunteers to join the militia and sometimes delivering gunpowder to the soldiers. She couriered messages between Point Pleasant and Lewisburg, West Virginia – a 160-mile journey on horseback.”
After the death of her second husband and the end of the Revolutionary War, she settled into a solitary life in the woods.
Most Americans have some knowledge of Sacagawea, but you may not have ever considered her accomplishments through the lens of motherhood.
Sacagawea was the only woman to accompany the 31 permanent members of the Lewis & Clark expedition to the Western edge of the nation and back – and she did it with a newborn baby.
Her language skills, knowledge of the land, and ability to think quickly under pressure made her invaluable to the expedition.
According to The History Channel, “When a squall nearly capsized a vessel they were traveling in, Sacagawea was the one who saved crucial papers, books, navigational instruments, medicines and other provisions, while also managing to keep herself and her baby safe.”
Mary Fielding Smith
Regarded as a pioneer of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Mary Fielding Smith showed her survival mindset and self-resilience when she was left to care for her children alone and make the lengthy trek to Salt Lake.
According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, “When the Saints left Nauvoo for the Salt Lake Valley after Joseph and Hyrum were martyred, Mary resolved to make the journey. She and her family were assigned to a traveling group, and the captain told her that she would be a burden to others and shouldn’t attempt the difficult journey. Mary responded, ‘I will beat you to the valley and will ask no help from you either.’ The trek proved difficult, but she arrived with her family in Salt Lake on September 23, 1848, a day ahead of the captain who had doubted her.”
[Related Read: Survival Lessons from Utah's Pioneer Day]
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder is the author of the popular Little House on the Prairie series, which tells the story of the Ingalls family trying to survive in the American West during the late 1800s as pioneers.
The Little House on the Prairie series focuses on how the Ingalls family lived self-sufficiently. The family did as much as they could independently without relying on the government or anyone else. The Ingalls family built their home themselves as well as their own furniture.
The Ingalls family also cooked meals from scratch using the ingredients they had on hand. Much of what they had came from their own preparedness skills. For example, Ma Ingalls worked in the garden while Pa Ingalls worked in the crop fields.
Published during the Great Depression, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novels provided comfort to Americans who were struggling with their circumstances and showed the importance of self-sufficiency.
[Related Read: What Little House on the Prairie Teaches Us about Preparedness]
Emma Rowena Gatewood
You may not have heard of Emma Rowena Gatewood, but you won’t be able to forget her once you do. She was the first woman to hike the entire Appalachian Trail solo. She accomplished this major milestone when she was 67 years old and had 11 children and 23 grandchildren.
According to REI, “She brought a blanket and a plastic shower curtain to protect her from the elements, but she didn’t bother with a sleeping bag, a tent, a compass or even a map, instead relying on the hospitality of strangers along the way and her own independent resourcefulness.”
After she hiked the entire Appalachian Trail solo the first time, she completed it two more times, becoming the first person (male or female) to hike it solo three times.
When park ranger positions were left vacant as men fought in WWI, Clara Hodges became the National Park Service’s (NPS) first confirmed female park ranger, working the summer season at Yosemite National Park in 1918.
Her vast experience exploring Yosemite on horseback, as well as her ability to navigate the terrain and her understanding of botany, helped her land the job.
After her stint as a park ranger ended, she went on to work “with children at the church summer camp program in Yosemite for more than thirty-five years, teaching them how to ride a horse and how to identify flowers and trees. She was often called upon by the staff of the San Jose State College to deliver lectures on wildflowers and herbarium.”
Martha Curtis Washington
Most often, Martha Washington is recognized only as the wife of President George Washington. But she played her own very real and very big part during the Revolutionary War.
She arrived at Valley Forge with supplies from Mount Vernon, and she prepared a sewing circle with other officers’ wives.
The Journal of the American Revolution reports, “She emerged as a selfless, courageous and patriotic American. Mrs. Washington became indispensable as a comfort to Washington and his men. One witness to Martha’s activities later wrote: ‘I never in my life knew a woman so busy from early morning until late at night as was Lady Washington, providing comforts for the sick soldiers.’”
[Related Read: The Hungry History of Washington's Army]
If you want a story about a strong mom who used her survival skills and street smarts to defend herself and her country, look no further than Nancy Hart.
During the Revolutionary War, she was questioned by British soldiers searching for a Whig leader. They didn’t know who they were dealing with.
According to The Journal of the American Revolution, “Entering the cabin, they stacked their weapons in a corner and demanded something to drink. Hart obliged them by serving up wine. As the soldiers drank the wine, Hart sent her daughter to the spring for a bucket of water. She secretly instructed her daughter to blow a conch shell, kept in a nearby stump, to alert the neighbors that Tories were in the cabin.
“As Hart served her unwelcome visitors and passed between them and their weapons, she began to pass the muskets through an opening in the cabin wall to her daughter, who had slipped outside to the rear of the house. When the soldiers noticed what was going on, they rushed to try and retrieve what weapons were left. She gave them one warning that she would shoot the next man that moved. Ignoring her warning, one man made the deadly mistake of approaching her. She held the rest off until her husband, Benjamin, and others arrived.”
During the Civil War, “Mother” Mary Ann Bickerdyke, a botanic physician, was one of the very few women who made her way to the battlefield and earned the troops' respect.
According to Riverbender, “Bickerdyke made five trips aboard a hospital steamer to help transport wounded men from Fort Donelson back to Cairo and elsewhere. Three days after the bloodbath at Shiloh, Mother showed up in a grey Confederate overcoat and a slouch hat that replaced a lost bonnet. In no time, she set up a portable laundry and was serving hot soup, tea, and crackers to the men. […] In another instance, Bickerdyke ordered a passing brigade to halt and distribute coffee and soup to wounded comrades. […] By war’s end, she had reportedly organized 300 hospitals and worked on 19 battlefields while offering welcome comfort to thousands of wounded, sick, and dying men.”
She was a mom to two sons, but she also earned the title of “Mother” for how she treated the soldiers during the Civil War.
Thank a mom today, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply
- Tags: History of Preparedness
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