Betsy Ross “never knew what it was to want employment,” as she herself would say. Her life gives us a view not just into the life behind the Betsy Ross legend, but into the lives of working women across Revolutionary America whose labors made the new nation possible.
Did Betsy Ross really make our nation’s “first flag?” Should she still be included among the pantheon of our nation’s founders? This lecture explores the life and work of Elizabeth Griscom Ross, explaining her world as an upholstery seamstress in Revolutionary Philadelphia, and the ways in which that work intersects with histories of the Independence movement and the United States in its first half-century. Also considered are the sources of the iconic “Betsy Ross” of myth and pageantry, and how developments in American politics, culture and memory over the nineteenth century have given us the legend as we know it today.