Cannons roared alongside the battle cries of men. The clearing was filled with the sting of fighting. As men collided with one another, women ran fast from the clear stream nearby. Bringing water to the men was an arduous, but crucial, part of the battle. One woman had filled her bowl and was walking quickly towards her husband who had just fired another cannon ball at the British line. She listened to the fighting taking place in the clearing, winching at the yelling and screams. Looking up, the bowl of water fell from her hands as she watched her husband crumble to the ground. Picking up the hem of her dress, she sprinted towards him. Collapsing onto her knees, she gently pulled his head into her lap, stroking his hair and caressing his face. She whispered reassuring words to him, but as she watched him and heard the battle persist without thought to her dying husband, anger bubbled inside her. The anger engulfed her with the need to do something, anything. Laying down her husband’s head softly, she walked to the cannon with resolve. She fired the cannon, making it roar with the sound of liberty. Molly Pitcher was a woman who was seen firing a cannon in place of her wounded husband during the Battle of Monmouth. Through her brave act, many have been influenced by her actions.
The Revolution War took many men and did not ignore the women. Women in the war tended to the men, be it camp followers or wives of the soldiers. Such was the case with Molly Pitcher. 1 Many men’s wives followed their husbands into the fighting because it was not safe for the wives to be left alone as the war raged on. Many of the camp followers and wives became water bearers, devoted to bringing water to the soldiers on the battlefield. Many of these women had seen how different weapons and cannons were fired over time because they were around artillerymen the majority of their time. The rare experience of a woman taking over the cannon for her fallen husband was detailed by a soldier and a field doctor that observed the account. Mary Ludwig Hays, or better known as Molly Pitcher of the Battle of Monmouth, was married to her husband who was placed on cannon during the battle. Her husband was then wounded, and she took his place. Her brave action has influenced many women to take action in their lives.
Many women today idolize Molly Pitcher as a role model for women’s empowerment. The Molly Pitcher Project was created in 2013 by four students at the University of Virginia Law School to promote women in combat situations. This project helped with the opening of combat MOs for women who desire to be involved in combat.2 The first woman who completed the project is now an infantry officer among the Army Rangers. This moment was historic for women in the military as well as for young girls who now have a strong woman figure to look up to. Molly Pitcher has become a symbol of power and strength for women and has changed expectations.
Before leaving the battlefield, Pitcher looked over the field one last time and made her way towards her husband. Smoothing his sweaty hair down, she talked to him about how she fired the cannon for him. He smiled up at her face as it mirrored his. Through Molly Pitcher’s bravery and valor, we have a valued piece of history. Women have modeled such actions and courage after her; women were given the power to take on roles in the military, and then partake in combat. Molly Pitcher was a truly brave woman, through her actions women today have a symbol for our own bravery.
- Elizabeth Cometti, “Women in the American Revolution,” The New England Quarterly 20, no. 3 (1947): 344-345. ↵
- “After Challenging Military Ban on Women in Combat, Molly Pitcher Project’s Dreams Are Realized,” University of Virginia School of Law, accessed November 9, 2016, http://www.law.virginia.edu/html/news/2013_spr/pitcher_update.htm. ↵