A Woman to Know: Deborah Sampson

I swerved from the accustomed flowery path of female delicacy. Deborah

(image via Library of Congress)

In 1782, at the height of America's Revolutionary War, 22-year-old Deborah Sampson ran away from home. She bound her breasts, cut her hair and disguised herself as Robert Shurtleff. As "Robert," she joined the Army's fight for American independence. After one skirmish, she even cut a musket ball from her own leg to avoid being discovered by the army doctors and removed from combat.

At the end of the war, however, Deborah came clean "Robert," confessing her ruse to Major General John Paterson. To her surprise, he lauded her achievements and named her a war hero.

For the rest of her life, Deborah toured the young United States, giving speeches on her military heroics and -- most importantly -- petitioning Congress to award her back pay for her time as a soldier.

By her estimates, the fledgling government owed her almost $1,000. And she got it, too.

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** Thank you to Meryl Streep for recommending today's woman to know! You can learn more about Meryl's love of Deborah here. **

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