Wives of the Signers: Facts about Five Women of the Declaration of Independence
The celebration of America’s Independence Day, also known as the Fourth of July, is regularly associated with well-known historical figures, such as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and John Adams. Though these men, and the many others who signed the Declaration of Independence, have a rightful place in America’s history, they weren't the only ones who played a part in America’s fight for independence.
The wives of the Declaration of Independence signers also played a significant role in American history; they were thinkers, supporters, and witnesses to key moments in America’s pursuit for liberty. Here are five women who stand out for their contributions:
Name: Annis Boudinot Stockton (1736-1801) Married to: Richard Stockton
Famous for: Safe-keeping of historical documents
In 1776, during the height of the Revolution, British soldiers marched on to Princeton, NJ. Upon hearing the news of the approaching soldiers, Annis, whose home was directly on the route of the invading army, bravely secured and concealed a number of important state papers as well as the rolls and records of the American Whig Society (a secret revolutionary group) at Princeton College.
Due to her quick thinking and actions, she was named an honorary member of the society and is the only woman to receive this honor.
Annis was also an American poet and one of the first women to be published in the thirteen colonies. She wrote and published her poems in leading newspapers and magazines of the day.
Name: Rebecca Minot Prescott Sherman (1742-1813)
Married to: Roger Sherman
Famous for: Construction of American/Connecticut Flag
Considered very patriotic, Rebecca looked for ways to show her support toward the colonies’ fight. When she heard that Betsy Ross was chosen to make the first official U.S. flag, Rebecca jumped at the chance to go and see the construction of the flag.
During the creation process, Ross allowed Rebecca the privilege of sewing on three of the flag’s stars. Due to this experience and her association with the making of the U.S. flag, Rebecca requested and was chosen to make the first official flag of the state of Connecticut.
Name: Dorothy Quincy Hancock (1747-1830)
Married to: John Hancock
Famous for: Witness to Battle of Lexington and Concord
While visiting her future husband, John, and his Aunt Lydia in their home in Lexington, MA, Dorothy was present when fellow American Revolutionist Paul Revere rode up to the home to warn Hancock and others of approaching British soldiers. A warning bell was rung and men began to gather, ready for defense. When the British militia reached the area, a battle began between the British Regulars and the Patriot militiamen. Dorothy and Aunt Lydia remained in the home and witnessed, from a bedroom window, the Battle of Lexington and Concord - the first battle of the Revolutionary War.
Dorothy documented what she witnessed and wrote detailed descriptions of the sights and sounds she had encountered in relation to the battle, such as “Two men are being brought into the house. One, whose head has been grazed by a ball, insisted that he was dead, but the other, who was shot through the arm, behaved better
Name: Elizabeth Annesley Lewis (1715-1779)*
Married to: Francis Lewis
Famous for: POW
After the Declaration of Independence was signed, many of the signers and their families were targeted by British militia. One evening, British troops entered the Lewis residence in Long Island with orders to capture Elizabeth and destroy the property.
As shots were fired—her possessions ransacked and her home in ruins— Elizabeth did not budge, calmly standing her ground. She was taken prisoner and held captive for months in New York City. The British sought to make an example of her because of her wealth and prominence. She lived in poor conditions, deprived of adequate food, warmth, a bed, and clean clothing.
News of her imprisonment made its way to General Washington, who negotiated with the British for her release through an exchange of prisoners. Though she was eventually freed and reunited with her family, Elizabeth’s health never fully recovered from the months living in inhumane conditions, and she died shortly thereafter.
Name: Laura Collins Wolcott (1732- 1794)*
Married to: Oliver Wolcott
Famous for: Provided shelter and food
Before, during and after the Revolutionary War, Laura and her husband Oliver opened up their home to anyone aiding the patriotic cause. A woman of strong character, Laura managed the family farm, keeping things going while her husband served the new nation. She made her home a place of comfort and refuge, and provided blankets, stockings and other supplies from her home and farm to the American army.
Don’t forget: in honor of America’s Independence Day, KCTS 9 welcomes you to join us as we kick off our country’s 238th birthday in an all-star salute with A Capitol Fourth. Hosted by two-time Emmy Award-winning television personality Tom Bergeron, the festivities feature performances by Frankie Valli, Pattie Labelle, Jordin Sparks and many more.
Tune in to A Capitol Fourth tonight, July 4 at 8:00 pm.
Green, Hilary Clinton, and Mary Wolcott Green. Wives of the Signers: The Women Behind the Declaration of Independence. Aledo, Texas : WallBuilder Press, 1997. Print.
Copley, John Singleton. Dorothy Quincy (Mrs. John Hancock). 1772. Painting. Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston. www.mfa.org .
Earl, Ralph. Mrs. Oliver Wolcott (Laura Collins Wolcott). 1782. Painting. The Athenaeum. www.the-athenaeum.org .
Benbridge, Henry. Mrs. Richard Stockton (Annis Boudinot). 1760. Painting. Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton. www.artmuseum.princeton.edu.
Moran, Edward Percy. The Birth of Old Glory. 1917. Painting. Wikimedia Commons. Library of Congress. www.loc.gov.
The Graphics Fairy. Vintage Silhouette Lady. Image. The Graphics Fairy: Vintage Images, DIY and Crafty Projects. thegraphicsfairy.com .