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American Women: Resources from the Manuscript Collections

Revolutionary War

New York: Currier & Ives, publisher. The women of '76: "Molly Pitcher" the heroine of Monmouth. Between 1856 and 1907. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Although the division's military holdings span the entire history of the United States, they are particularly rich for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Revolutionary War is the focus of innumerable collections, many of which are described in the publication Manuscript Sources in the Library of Congress for Research on the American Revolution, compiled by John R. Sellers et al. These collections cover both Loyalists and patriots. For example:

  • Surgeon Isaac Foster (69 items; 1769-1899), a patriot, described for his wife, Mary Russell Foster, his military activities and travels during the American Revolution, and she wrote to him about domestic life and the impact of war on the economy, especially in the Boston area.
  • After her Loyalist husband and their daughter fled to England during the Revolutionary War, Grace Galloway (d. 1782) remained in Philadelphia in an unsuccessful attempt to save the family property. Her correspondence in the Joseph Galloway Family Papers (260 items; 1743-1823) describes her daily experiences, her need to smuggle her letters through enemy lines, and the attack on the family's home during the riots following the British surrender at Yorktown.
  • Christian Barnes (54 items; 1768-84), the wife of merchant Henry Barnes, similarly described the hardships faced by Loyalists in Massachusetts and related her family's experiences after the war when they and other Loyalists relocated to Bristol, England.
  • Elizabeth Fries Lummis Ellet (1818-1877) was a well-known nineteenth-century writer, poet, and historian. She is most recognized for being the first historian to write about women's involvement in the American Revolution in her three-volume work, The Women of the American Revolution, published in 1848 (vols. 1 and 2) and 1850 (vol. 3). Her papers (185 items; 1842-1865; bulk 1848-1850) consist of incoming correspondence of the relatives, including women, of Revolutionary women.

The division's early presidential and congressional collections are also good sources of information on the Revolutionary War. In addition, letters by and about women during this time period may be found online in the papers of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and the Letters of Delegates to Congress in A Century of Lawmaking For a New Nation.

Manuscript Resources Referenced

The following collection titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content, including finding aids for the collections, are included when available.