Lessons From Female Spies During the Revolutionary War: Eight Traits to Strive for Today

I wouldn’t consider myself an American history buff. I lack the recall for specific dates and facts. I’m more of an old soul with an appreciation for Americana. I find romance in it. Maybe it’s the long dresses and coiffed hair, the unique sense of community and purpose, architecture or slower pace of life. I’m intrigued by all of it. Antiques, musty museums and the creak of original wood floor boards underfoot make me wish walls could talk.

Maybe that’s why I like watching “TURN: Washington’s Spies” on AMC. The drama series is a captivating window into our cultural heritage and the birth of our nation. It’s one of a few shows my husband and I enjoy together. I’m not going to get into historic truths vs. Hollywood embellishments or make this a women’s rights soapbox, but “TURN” has helped me brush up on Revolutionary War history nonetheless and sparked my imagination.

If you’re not familiar, the show’s focus is on General George Washington’s spy ring during the Revolutionary War, which united all kinds of people – men and women of different races, faiths and means – for a common cause. This got me thinking about the fabric of our country’s founding fathers and mothers, specifically the hardships women faced and unique roles they played at that time. Women aren’t often recognized for serving as spies during the war, but seriously, how interesting is that fact? I think the same qualities I’ve seen portrayed by the women spies on the show are worth striving for today, and I hope I’m instilling these eight qualities in my own daughter:

  1. Leadership – Smart girl, you will be a great leader. Many women at that time in history had to manage and defend the household, children, farm, etc. while their husbands were away to fight. Others followed and supported the troops in camps, raised funds for the cause, wrote important letters or other works and served as information couriers or advisors to leaders. Some of their actions affected the outcomes of battles and protected their families. I think a muse is a leader in its own right. And while you CAN be a boss in life and business, you don’t have to be a president or general to have influence.
  1. Righteousness – How important is a sense of right and wrong. Have conviction to fight for what you believe in just as those who helped shape our nation did. Patriots chose to separate from England for many reasons, all of which they felt were worth risking their lives for.
  1. Faith – Believe in something good and bigger than yourself. So many women had faith in the cause and leadership. When times are tough, have faith in yourself to push on and believe in a better future.
  1. Loyalty – Stand by your family and friends as long as they do the same for you. Some women risked it all to defend the spy ring, Washington and the cause, while others were loyalists to the crown. As Benedict Arnold’s story taught us, whatever side you stand on you must be trustworthy and true.
  1. Courage – I found the women of the time to be just as brave as the soldiers in the fight (if not more so). Imagine hiding soldiers in your cellar or not knowing if or when your loved one would return from battle. Be brave under fire and in the face of loss. Whatever the struggles are and no matter what challenges lie ahead, persevere. Know you are capable of more than you think. Trying times can bring out your best.
  1. Resourcefulness – Women then didn’t have it all (hi, equal rights), but they pushed for change and made do with what they had in the process. They advanced our rights through ingenuity and often cunning determination.
  1. Compassion – Let’s face it, we are typically the caregivers. I stay home with the kids, handle coordinating the kids’ doctor visits and a Mommy hug has magical powers in our house. Don’t underestimate the power of whatever maternal instincts you have to help others. Patience and compassion often go hand in hand. (Just think how long those letters took to reach loved ones and leaders via courier.) Love is also a powerful motivator.
  1. Patriotism – Let’s be proud of our nation and exercise our rights as women to support what we believe is good for our country and the lives of all who live here. The USA was founded on such pride and patriotism. I hope my daughter will appreciate the sacrifices made by these women and men who paved the way for independence and the freedoms we have today.

As we celebrate the birth of our nation this month, let’s also celebrate all that we are as women – everything we’ve accomplished and everything we can do.

Happy July! What lessons do you teach your children from history? How are you celebrating the USA?

For more information on female spies during the Revolutionary War, visit the National Women’s History Museum at www.nwhm.org or Colonial Williamsburg’s website, www.history.org.

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Lindsey Geiss

Lindsey Geiss is a public relations and crisis communications planning professional turned stay-at-home mom and writer. When she’s not handling local early childhood PTA publicity, she’s getting crafty with the kids, researching allergy-friendly toddler snacks, or finding and wrapping that perfect gift. Lindsey is a shoe-lover, jump rope enthusiast and recovering perfectionist. She lives on the West side of Cleveland with her husband and two young children.

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