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Sarah Edmonds
   Union Army spy
Mary Read:
   16th C. pirate
Hua Mulan:
   6th C. Chinese warrior.
Nadezhda Durova: 19th C. Russian soldier
Joan of Arc:
   Leader of French army in 100 years war, 15th C.
 Woman Warrior in Drag of the week

Deborah Sampson

Born December 17, 1760 in Plympton Massachusetts, Deborah Sampson is the first American woman known to join and fight in an American military unit. Sampson began life as an indentured servant in Middleborough, Mass., where she received her education in heavy farm labor as well as traditional schooling. At the age of 18, she became legally free of her obligation to the Thomas family and was soon traveling from household to household, working. At 22, Sampson made her first attept to join the army--foiled when officials learned her gender. Sampson's mother, embarrassed, counseled her to marry; Sampson instead escaped to Bellingham to sign up in the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment of the Continental Army as a man named Robert Shirtliff.

Deborah served with the Continental Army, disguised as a man, until she was wounded in a skirmish in Tarrytown (New York). While in the hospital, she received medical attention for injuries to her head; while she had been shot in the thigh during the skirmish, she kept this knowledge to herself, afraid that the doctors would discover her sex if they tended to her thigh wound. Sampson tended to the wound herself and went directly back to active duty without allowing her leg time to heal. As a result, her leg never healed properly.

Back in Middleborough, circulation of stories and rumors of Deborah's masquerading as a man in the Continental Army prompted the First Baptist Church excommunicate Deborah for her "unchristian-like" conduct.

After returning to the army, Deborah eventually became sick with fever after being sent to Philadelphia to help end a rebellion of American Officers. It was while she was in the hospital that a Dr. Barnabus Binney discovered that she was a woman. Barnabus waited until after the signing of the Treaty of Paris officially ended the fighting in America to discreetly pass on his knowledge of Deborah's sex to a general at West Point in 1783. As a result, Deborah Sampson was given an Honorable Discharge by General Henry Knox at West Point on October 23, 1783.

Additional information about Deborah Sampson is available at the Stephens College site.


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