Betsy Ross was born in 1752, and was named Elizabeth Griscom at birth. Her fame is attached to her married name, and a shortened version of her given name. Betsy Ross is most well known for her creation of and involvement in the first American flag.
1. Maker of the first American flag
Betsy Ross is best known for being the person credited with having made the first American flag. There is much debate about the subject, but one story is that she knew George Washington through where their pews were in church, and he asked Betsy Ross to make the flag in 1776. According to the story that is told by Ross’s grandson, Washington was impressed with Ross’s ability to cut a five pointed star with one clip of the scissors, so long as the fabric was folded correctly, and knew of her ability to sew etc. and thus asked her to make the flag. Of course, were it not for Betsy Ross’s grandson, no one would know who she was or what she did. Her grandson is the one who told her story to a local magazine, and later it was published in school text books, and history books.
2. The debate of whether or not she was the maker of the first American flag
One reason we still study Betsy Ross today, and recognize her name is that no one is certain if she actually did sew the flag, or if it was just a story told by her family. In fact, much of her fame is through proving she was not the maker of the first American flag. Most scholars agree that it was not Betsy Ross, but rather a commissioned company, and while she was a flag maker by trade, the story is unfounded.
3. Design of the American flag
Some people believe that whether or not Ross actually made the first American flag, she may have had a hand in its design. There is still speculation about her ties to George Washington, and her suggestion of using a five point star (the kind she could cut with one clip of scissors). It is said that she suggested the design to George Washington who then made a rough sketch based on her ideas, using a five, rather than six, point star.
4. Forward thinker
Despite her involvement or lack thereof in the American flag, Betsy Ross is also known today because of her forward thinking. Rather than being bound by the rules of society she thought for herself, and was one of the first members of the Fighting Quakers religious group, a group known for not being as strict with outdated religious practices, but rather encouraged forms of and expressions of free thinking.
5. Independent woman
One reason so many respect Betsy Ross was that Ross was an independent woman, something fairly rare for her time. She was an accomplished needle worker, and used her skills and business sense to keep herself afloat financially after her first husband died, and before she remarried.
6. Member of the first women’s movement
Betsy Ross is famous for a number of reasons, but one is simply that it was a popular sentiment to have a woman be a part of the American Founding, not just “Founding Fathers”. Thus, she became a symbol, and a recognizable name for the women’s movement.
7. A figure of her time
Even if Betsy Ross never met Washington and never had a hand in the making of the first American flag, she is an important historical figure as she represents many other women of that time. She is a good example of what many women went through, such as being a widow, marrying for economic reasons, having to buck social tradition and run a business as a woman, etc.
8. Lack of information
Betsy Ross’s true involvement in history is unknown, she is said to be buried three different places, there is speculation about where she lived, etc. Thus, part of her fame is the simple lack of fact.
9. Part of the American Founding
Whether or not she truly made the first flag, Betsy Ross stands as a memorial to the contributions of women and their role in the founding of America. She is a symbol, and a person that can be used as an example of someone who gave their husbands, time, and self to the founding of this country. To this day there exists an association devoted to keeping the name and legacy of Betsy Ross alive, and to honoring her role in America’s history, whether or not it is actually accurately portrayed.
10. Interdenominational marriage
One of the reasons Betsy Ross is remembered is because she married outside of her faith, and withstood the social and economic consequences of doing so. During her time, if you were a Quaker and married someone who was not, you were cut off by your family, and “read out” in the community. Despite the persecution, Betsy followed her heart.
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