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Who Really Wore the Leather Breeches in The Boone Family? Hmmm?

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

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rebecca_boone

 

“In order that she may be able to give her hand with dignity, she must be able to stand alone.”

–Margaret Fuller

 

Rebecca Bryan should have known she’d have her hands full with Daniel Boone. According to an account from 1852, the two first met when Daniel was out “shining the eyes” of deer, a process similar to modern-day spotlighting. Only thing was, when Daniel drew down on a pair of shining eyes, they happened to belong to the young, pretty, and very human Rebecca. Mercifully, Daniel missed the shot and, after courting for three years, married her in 1756. Some scholars say they met at a wedding. Knowing what was to come for the Boones, I’d be inclined to believe the hunting story.

Over the next 24 years of their marriage, Becky would be pregnant on average every two to four years, giving birth to 10 children. Because of Daniel’s famous (and probably downright annoying) need to explore, she would relocate her home at least six different times. And due to his wanderlust, she also had to run these homes alone, sometimes for months on end. Perhaps that’s why she headed deep into the wilderness whenever Daniel asked. She loved him. Simple as that.

Because of his predilection for remote areas (or a disdain for neighbors) Becky came to epitomize the famous pioneer spirit. She was known and respected as an accomplished midwife, leather tanner, doctor-of-sorts, marksman, seamstress, you name it, she could do it. And did without much grumbling.

For over a decade, Daniel supported his family in North Carolina by hunting and trapping. The endeavor took him away from home for months and months. It was on one of these trips he discovered the magical land of Kentucky.

Smitten with the area, in 1773, Daniel moved there with his family and fifty or so other settlers. Blood was boiling amongst the Delawares, Shawnees, and Cherokees over white encroachment. Eager to send a clear message, the Indians captured the Boone’s oldest son James and another boy. The two, just teenagers, were tortured to death, slowly, in a most horrific manner for the show of it.

Kentucky, though, had her hooks in Daniel. After a brief retreat to Virginia, The Boone’s returned and he set about helping settle the frontier, and building a country. He also served as a captain in the Colonial Army and a state representative for the Virginia House. Daniel could conquer challenges and seize the day because he knew Becky had his back.

By all accounts, she rarely complained about her hard life. I believe that’s because she had a heart overflowing with love. Many of the Boone’s children stayed close to the couple, living either with them or nearby. Adopted children and numerous grandchildren abounded. At one point, Becky presided over a household of twenty people! She didn’t have time to whine. She was too busy living.

Becky gave birth to her last child at the age of 40. In 1799, she moved with Daniel and several of their children to Missouri and enjoyed many peaceful years there. She went to her final rest at the age of 74. And a well-deserved rest it was.

Beware The Waspish Sting of a Patriot Woman’s Pen

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

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mercy

“If I be waspish, best beware my sting.”
William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew

If I asked you to name American writers who stirred hearts and passions during the American Revolution, most likely you’d mention Thomas Pain or Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson. Surely, each man made his invaluable contribution to the fight for independence.

Lesser known, though, is the crisp, satirical wit of Mercy Otis Warren. Her plays pricked the pride of pompous Tories and entertained the likes of John and Abigail Adams.

Mercy was a determined woman and I believe she exemplified the kind who struck fear in Cornwallis’ heart. Born to a somewhat wealthy family in England, her father didn’t care to educate her. To most, this would have been a high barrier. To Mercy, it was merely an inconvenience. Focused and self-disciplined, she learned to read by sitting in on her brother’s lessons when she could, and going through his text books on her own. Her perseverance prompted more familial support and an education was provided.

Mercy was quite intelligent, clearly, and a mind like hers was always inquiring. Her family moved to Massachusetts in 1754 and when she married James Warren, found herself surrounded by pro-American voices. Her husband and her brother both were passionately in support of the colonies throwing off the yolk of a tyrant king. Her home was a popular meeting spot for the local revolutionaries and Mercy became lifetime friends with several of our Founding Fathers and their wives.

But standing around serving tea wasn’t all she wanted to do. Mercy knew there was a reason for her quick wit and sharp tongue. So did her husband. She married a remarkably open-minded man who appreciated that she was a gifted writer. James often sent her works to friends, and even submitted some for publication. Mercy’s first play, The Adulateur, was published anonymously in 1772. It unabashedly criticized the lieutenant governors attacks on personal freedoms in Boston. This was the first of several plays that had the indignant Tories throwing their tea cups across the room.

After the war, Mercy wrote a comprehensive history of the Revolution, a book of valuable insights even today. In it, however, she slighted John Adams, or so that is how he took it. His response? He chastised by Mercy by telling her, “History is not the Providence of Ladies.”

It was for this Lady in Defiance.

Mollie Fly–The Woman at the OK Corral

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

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Mollie Fly

Mollie Fly

Not much is known about Mollie. You’ve probably never heard of her. But you know her husband. C.S. “Buck” Fly was THE photographer in Tombstone when the shoot-out at the OK Corral went down.

Mary “Mollie” McKie moved with her family to San Francisco sometime in the 1850’s, when she was around 8 or 10. The boisterous town may well be what fostered her desire for adventure, but a good upbringing kept her from falling into vice. In Defiance of the times, she took up the male-dominated hobby of photography. She also took up a husband, Samuel D. Goodrich. Apparently he wasn’t a good fit and, in a day when divorce was rare, Mollie showed him the door after only two years.

Soon, she met the dashing and adventurous Camillus Sidney “Buck” Fly, a young man who had grown up in the Napa Valley. He also loved capturing still life. We don’t know how they met. It’s a shame because they made a lasting impression on each other. We do know they married in Sept. of ‘79 and by December had arrived in the silver boomtown of Tombstone, AZ.

Within a year, they had gone from working in a tent to owning a 12-room boardinghouse that also housed the famous photography studio (the door of which was within spitting distance to the OK Corral). Buck spent a great deal of time riding the range, snapping beautiful photographs of the landscapes, as well as capturing historically valuable pictures of the Indian campaigns. A tiny gal known for her spunk, Mollie accepted the long absences and kept things humming at home. She ran the boardinghouse, took portraits for customers, and raised a daughter. Sometime in the early 1880’s, a young girl by the name of Kitty appeared on the census as a member of their household. It is not known whether she was Fly’s daughter or a simply a child they adopted, but Mollie loved her and took care of her like she was blood.

Part of that care included removing Kitty and herself from a bad situation when Fly’s drinking spiraled out of control. In ’87, Mollie divorced him and the famous photographer left Tombstone. Soldiering on, she kept the studio and boardinghouse running, but there is clear evidence she was nursing a broken heart. Mollie never remarried. She was at Fly’s side in Bisbee, AZ in 1901 when he breathed his last. She then arranged to have him buried in Tombstone, and bought him a nice, well, tombstone.

Mollie was Fly Gallery until 1912. Feeling her age, she retired to Los Angeles and died there in 1925. Prior to her death, she donated all of Fly’s negatives to the Smithsonian, well aware of the contribution her husband had made to history by chronicling the West.


Queen of the Klondike…A Great Ride While it Lasted

One of the few pretty faces in the Klondike.

One of the few pretty faces in the Klondike.

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

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Freedom. A true lady in Defiance cries out for it. Refuses to live without it. Pursues it at any cost. Society, propriety—even common sense won’t stop her from wrapping her slender fingers around it.

In the end, she may only have her memories of it, but at least she tasted it. For a time, Kate lived free.

Kathleen Eloise Rockwell (1873-1957) came from an unstable home, growing up in at least four different states. Perhaps the shifting sand beneath her feet contributed to her headstrong ways and desire for adventure. Dubbed a tomboy by the neighborhood kids, Katie played better with the boys than with the frilly little girls. She was a bit sassy and, arguably, incorrigible—at least according to the boarding school that kicked her out.

In the early1890’s, Kate’s mother divorced her father and the two girls wound up in New York City. The young girl got involved with the theater scene and learned to sing and dance, but eventually even the Big Apple wasn’t big enough for the free spirit. The siren call of the Alaska Gold Rush reached her ears and Kate headed off for the Klondike.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, however, denied her entry. Because she was a woman. Alone. On the frontier.

Can’t you hear the wheels turning in her head? Kate lived to circumvent rules and live her life on her terms.

So she dressed up like a boy and waltzed right into the Klondike. (Well, actually she took a boat.) I can see her waving at the RCMP as she sailed by.

Now, it’s one thing to try to make it on the Great White Way. Lots of competition and all that. Kate had a suspicion that in Alaska she could be a big fish in a little pond. I mean, really, how many pretty girls could there be willing to face the wild frontier? Sub-zero temperatures, knee-deep spring mud, lawless towns. Sounded like her kind of party. Kate just wanted to sing and dance. It didn’t matter if the audience was comprised of desperately hungry, cold, mud-encrusted miners who hadn’t seen a woman, much less a pretty one, in months.

She intended to mesmerize them and had a grand plan. For her “Flame Dance” she came on stage wearing an elaborate gown covered in red sequins and trailing an enormous cape. She took off the cape to reveal a cane that was attached to more than 200 yards of red chiffon. Kate leaped and twirled with the shimmering, floating fabric, spellbinding the hapless men. At the end she would dramatically drop to the floor, as did the men’s jaws.

Yeah. She was a big hit. For three years, she was the belle of the ball. Parisian gowns, gold jewelry, men falling at her feet. They called her Klondike Kate and Queen of the Yukon.

But the gold eventually petered out and Kate drifted around, along with a few different husbands. She ran a movie theater, even coached starlets in the 1940’s. Time and age catch us all, though. Kate slowed down then finally finished the ride in Oregon in 1957.

By no means an angel, Kate was a woman who defied conventionality, shook her fist at the lack of social mobility for women, and cut her own path through life.

I tip my hat to this trailblazer.

Betsy Ross — She Found the Beauty in the Ashes

besty

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2013 Heather Blanton

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“Sugar and spice and everything nice
That’s what little girls are made of.”

My curiosity about our Founding Mothers has certainly led me to one inarguable conclusion: the above  statement just ain’t so. Our Founding Mothers each had an iron will, the patience of Job, and perseverance and stubbornness enough to shame a mule.

In researching Betsy Ross, I truly came to respect those last two traits.

One of seventeen children and born into a Quaker home, Elizabeth Griscom married her first husband, John Ross, in 1773. The young man she had fallen in love was NOT a Quaker and therefore, the union was not sanctioned. Wisely or not, the couple took the matter into their own hands and eloped. Upon her return, the 21-year-old Betsy was “read out” of her congregation. Clearly not one to curl up like a wilted flower, she instead rolled up her sleeves and helped her husband open an upholstery shop in Philadelphia.

She also supported John’s decision to join the Philadelphia militia in 1775, since their love of liberty was one of the things that had brought them together. Sadly, less than a year later, he was killed in a munitions explosion. The couple had no children. Once again, Betsy rose to the occasion. She squared her shoulders and took over the business. Surely, this fiery widow had to be the talk of Philadelphia. A pretty woman and a patriot running her own business amidst turbulent political times.  It was unheard of.

Not long after the death of her husband in 1776, George Washington, Robert Morris and George Ross (her husband’s uncle), made their historic request of Betsy. This is not a legend. History confirms that Betsy and her husband knew George Washington as all three attended Christ Church, plus she had sewn some flags for the Navy, and her husband’s uncle knew George, as well. The couple was married by William Franklin, son of Benjamin, so it’s pretty obvious they moved in the right circles for Betsy to have received this request. Not to mention, she could sew like a fiend.

Whispers down through history have also suggested Betsy may have been the “beautiful young widow” who distracted Carl Von Donop. Donop was the Hessian commander who lost the opportunity to reinforce the troops at Trenton on Dec 26, 1776, allowing George Washington a resounding victory. Quite the morale booster for the Colonial Army. Was it due in part to Betsy?

Besty married again in 1777 to mariner Joseph Ashburn. He was in Betsy’s life long enough to father two children with her. In 1780, his ship was captured by the British and Ashburn was thrown into prison, charged with treason. Not only would Betsy never see him again, but she lost her nine-month old daughter Zilla during this time, while she was pregnant with their second child Eliza.

Betsy had to have been an incredibly strong woman to keep forging ahead the way she did. She never stopped running her business and even managed to sew uniforms for the Colonial Army for several years. In 1783, she married again (this time for the last time). John Claypoole, an old friend of her family, had actually been imprisoned with her husband and was the one who delivered the news of his death.

Prison took the starch out of Claypoole, though, and he suffered from poor health for years. Still, the couple did manage to bless the world with 5 daughters. I think there is some poetic justice in that, considering all that Betsy had been through and lost to the war. Claypoole passed away in 1817 and Betsy ran the family business for another 10 years, before turning it over to her daughters.

Betsy Griscom Ross Ashworth Claypoole lived to be 84 years of age, but, of course, her story is immortal. She was a true lady in defiance!

When it’s all Coming Apart — Bake a Pie in Alaska

Harriet in front of her hotel with her new stage coach.

Harriet in front of her hotel with her new stagecoach.

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2013 Heather Blanton

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Feeling a little low today? Like the world is sucker-punching you? Well, you can mope…or you can fight. Learn a lesson from a true lady in defiance.

“I only had seven dollars to my name. I didn’t know a soul in Alaska. I had no place to go. So I stood on the beach in the rain, while tented Skagway of 1897 shouted, cursed, and surged about me.”

Abandoned and nearly bankrupted by her husband, Harriet Pullen pulled herself up by her bootstraps and vowed to make a living somehow. To get started, she placed her four children with friends in Seattle and headed north to Alaska to look for work. Her desperation for employment must have shown on her face because only moments after making it to the beach, a man tapped her on the shoulder and asked her if she could cook.

Could she cook?

Capt. William Moore was building a wharf and had a crew of eighteen hungry men, a kitchen, and a problem. To his dismay, and Harriet’s good fortune, the cook had run off. With grim determination, Harriet rolled up her sleeves. But she couldn’t stand up. Moore’s “kitchen” consisted of a tarp pulled across some logs that, because of hanging hams and heavy sides of bacon, drooped so low she literally had to bend over to cook. Adding to the misery, the previous chef had left the dirt floor littered with food scraps and a table buried under a mountain of dirty plates.

Harriet said she broke down and sobbed when she saw the mess. I suspect it was the last time she cried over her situation.

By dusk, she had scrubbed the dishes with ashes from the fire, cooked a mouth-watering meal, baked apple pies for dessert…and earned her first $3.00 in Skagway. Not to mention applause from the crew.

It didn’t take her long to earn enough money to have her three young sons join her (the daughter stayed in Seattle as Skagway was no place for ladies—of any age). It also didn’t take her long to realize $3.00 a day was not enough for her and her boys to live on. So she started baking pies…at night…after working all day to feed the crew of eighteen carpenters. She baked hundreds of pies and sold them to miners and a local restaurant. She not only made enough money doing this to take care of her family, the funds made it possible for Harriet to ship seven of her horses up from Seattle.

Harriet used the horses to pack freight over the notorious White Pass Trail, lovingly nicknamed by the locals The Worst Trail This Side of Hell. It was a wee bit steep, to say the least. Harriet was the only woman EVER to move freight over it. She did so quite successfully and word got around. So maybe it was no surprise her worthless husband showed up during this time. He didn’t stay long, choosing instead to brave the cold temperatures of the Klondike rather than the chill in Skagway.

When the railroad finally made pack mules obsolete, our heroine still managed to land on her feet. She bought a big house, rented out the rooms, and sold her pies. The Pullen House eventually became one of the most famous hotels in Alaska.

Harriet never re-married and raised four good kids on her own, two of them war heroes. This “Mother of the North” died in 1947. Probably with her boots on. So no matter what is going on in your life, I suggest first that you pray, and then roll up your sleeves and get to work.

When a Puritan Woman Won’t Bend, Break Her. At Least, You Can Try…

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2013 Heather Blanton

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America was built on the idea of religious freedom. The Puritans, the Quakers, and others came here with the desire to worship God as they saw fit. But what happened when one feisty, strong-willed woman challenged the beliefs of her own denomination?

Admittedly, the story of one Ann Marbury Hutchinson doesn’t have a happy ending. She wasn’t vindicated in her lifetime for her faith, courage and stubbornness. She was smeared and her violent death was celebrated by men in the pulpit. She may have been bent, but she wasn’t broken.

Ann Hutchinson arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634 with her husband  and eleven children. One of the reasons for their move from England was they wanted to follow the controversial minister John Cotton. Cotton was known for preaching that we are saved by grace, rather than our good deeds. Ann, an ardent Christian, knew this to be the truth when she heard it and the truth did set her free, especially her mouth.

A mid-wife, Ann had plenty of contact with women in the colony. She started Bible studies for them in her home. With a lively personality and keen mind, she spent hours dissecting and discussing Cotton’s sermons and this idea that we are saved by grace alone. When her meetings grew to as many as 60 people, including men, the church leaders had had enough. They vowed to take her down. (Why does this story sound so familiar?)

I’m no Bible scholar and don’t know much about the deep details of theology, but I do believe salvation is a simple gift. So did Ann and she was passionate about trying to get the word out. She was even brought up on charges by the church for her blasphemy and, by all historical accounts, held her own quite skillfully. After all, a woman who could survive 15 pregnancies, raise 11 of the children, run a home, deliver other women’s babies, find time to pray, and learn the Bible backwards and forwards was a force to be reckoned with. According to court records, a group of men in wigs did not scare her.

Still, a woman with a mind of her own, an abiding affection for her Lord Jesus Christ and an equal hatred of legalism was bound to run afoul of the men in power. Ann was ruled a heretic and an “instrument of the devil”, separated from her children, banished from the colony, and excommunicated from her church. For a time she and her family lived in Rhode Island, but on the passing of her husband, she decided to move to what is now Bronx, New York. A fateful decision. Sometime in August of 1643, Indians raided her farm, killing Ann, six of her children, a son-in-law, and her servants. One surviving child, a daughter, was taken during the attack and ransomed back some years later.

Like I said, not a happy ending. At least on our side of Heaven. As a Christian living in a world where most liberals would do to us what was done to Ann, I believe there is a lesson to be learned from this tough lady. We may never know the number of lives we impact for Christ. We don’t have to know. Just be strong and do the work.

Putting it All on the … Hem! Elizabeth Poindexter and Her Innocent Needle

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2013 Heather Blanton

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Elizabeth and Thomas Poindexter lived in Yadkin county, North Carolina, eventually having 12 children total. Ardent patriots, when the revolutionary war began Thomas Poindexter served as a captain in charge of a regiment of farmers and shop owners. Talented soldiers, they were critical to the American forces in the skirmishes around the Yadkin River, especially in the battle of Shallowford.

Since Thomas Poindexter was away with the revolutionary forces, Elizabeth was left alone at home with the British in close proximity. To aid the war effort, crafty Elizabeth sewed secret messages and military correspondence into her daughters’ dresses, and then would send them on “errands” right through British lines. She did this throughout the conflict and neither she nor her daughters were ever even questioned.

The rumor was was she was a sweet, pretty thing with such well-behaved daughters that she and her girls were simply above suspicion. Reason for cultivating a positive, lady-like reputation (MIley Cyrus, are you listening?).

After the war, Elizabeth was recognized for her bravery in wartime. Today she is an official hero of the Daughters of the American Revolution and they, as well, have recognized her contribution in the revolutionary war in the North Carolina region.

Keep the needle sharp and respect the lace!grave

Dr. Quinn had it Easy Compared to “Doc Susie” Anderson

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2012 Heather Blanton

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doc_anderson

Sometimes I write about the women who fought for this country’s independence in very real, sacrificial ways. Sometimes I write about women who fought the land and the times to settle difficult territory. Susan Anderson is definitely the latter.

Born in Indiana in 1870, she moved with her family to Cripple Creek Colorado at the beginning of the town’s gold rush. Deciding she needed more of a challenge than the rough and rowdy mining town could provide, her father encouraged her to attend medical school. In 1893, she entered the University of Michigan medical school. Little did she know how difficult the journey to put two letters behind her name would be.

She graduated in ’97, but while in school, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The illness would plague her the rest of her life. She returned to Cripple Creek and tended to the miners there for three years, but the pretty, petite doctor was jilted by her fiancée in 1900. That same year she suffered the loss of her little brother.

In need of a change, she relocated her practice to Denver. Surely, the bustling, modern city would provide a steady flow of patients. Not. Anderson nearly starved to death. Patients were very leery of a female doctor, especially when there were already several male doctors in town. Frustrated, she moved again, this time to Greely, and took work as a nurse. How frustrating that must have been for this gutsy, stubborn gal. Probably the stress had something to do with her TB flaring up. Sick and weak, Anderson moved to Fraser, Colorado to recuperate or die. She breathed not a word of her vocation.

But word got out, as it always does, and her health improved. I wonder if the two events are related? At any rate, the citizens of remote Fraser were delighted to have a doctor. They didn’t care if she was male, female, or a different species entirely. Everyone from lumberjacks to ranchers to pregnant wives came to see her. She occasionally even treated a sick horse.

In her career as a doctor, “Doc Susie” was paid with everything from firewood to food. Cash was an extreme rarity and her living conditions reflected that. Nearly destitute, sometime around 1915 or so she was appointed the Grand County Coroner and the regular pay check helped ease some of her financial concerns.

She never owned a car but always found a way to visit her patients. Most often she walked, sometimes in hip-deep snow. Mostly, though, friends and family members of patients provided transportation. Anderson was not rich financially, but she earned an esteemed reputation as a fine rural doctor and diagnostician. Her life was not easy but I think that’s how she would have wanted it. She liked fighting for her accomplishments.

She conquered a frontier, both real and emotional, leaving behind a path for other women who dared to dream big. Anderson practiced in Fraser until 1956 then retired to an old folks home in Denver. She died four years later and was buried with her family in Cripple Creek.

Respect the lace.

Esther Reed — Where June Cleaver Got Her Domestic Goddess Genes?

by Heather Frey Blanton

esther_reed

Esther De Berdt Reed, though born in England, found the cause of liberty trumped ties to homeland and tradition. Perhaps her future husband, American Joseph Reed, had something to do with her fervor. The two met in London in 1763 when he was studying law. True love took its course and they  became engaged, yet Reed left to tend to matters in America. The couple endured a five-year separation. Esther clearly knew her mind and her heart.

The two married and moved to Philadelphia around 1770 when the abuses of the crown were just getting rolling. Joseph worked hard and became a prosperous lawyer. His wife threw wonderful soirees that included the likes of General George Washington. After the battles at Lexington and Concord, though, Joseph was called to serve his country. He rose quickly through the ranks, eventually becoming a general himself.

Esther was left at home to raise six children and manage her household. Prepare to feel inadequate, because she was clearly more than a Philadelphia housewife. Esther not only moved her family out of Philadelphia three separate times to avoid British soldiers and Tory mobs, she also dove full tilt into fundraising for the cause. Using her gifts, connections and time as wisely as possible, she started the Ladies of Philadelphia, a group of women focused on raising money for the American soldiers. Initially they thought to give cash to the troops. Washington gently suggested the money be used to buy clothes. But he left the decision up to Esther.

Before Esther’s death in 1780 at the young age of 34, her group raised a whopping $7000 for the Continental Army and then used the money to buy cloth for shirts. Together, the ladies and their servants then sewed 2000 shirts. June Cleaver would be proud of these gals.

Esther gave all and died no less valiantly than a soldier under cannon fire. She knew what kind of a country she wanted her children to grow up in. One without a pompous king taxing them to death and determining their future. Inspired by Esther’s passion, Sarah Franklin stepped up to take her place and had similar success. Esther Reed was the first woman to be called A Daughter of Liberty. Amen, sister.

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