This year it is appropriate to recognize a powerful force that has made our nation great, The Ladies.
At Roanoke, the Lost Colony, they were there and shared the hardship and the disaster of that ill fated settlement. Later at Jamestown, although the colony was hardly established and a few women, wives and servants of the officers had already come, the proprietors in England loaded a ship with ninety young women in 1620 and sent them across the Atlantic as brides for the survivors of hunger, disease, cold and hostile attack.
Stop for just a moment and think about the mental state of those young women. You think Sally Ride the astronaut was courageous! In a meadow outside the settlement they were presented, and the Men proposed, and paid for their passage, the Vicar married them and they went off together to found the greatest, freest nation in the world.
Their sons and daughters literally tore a nation out of the primeval forest. From the early 1600s until the 1890s they stood at loopholes in the walls of log cabins and sod huts beside their husbands and children and fought off Indians and bandits.
In the Shenandoah Valley and Western Pennsylvania in 1755, under Shawnee attack during the French and Indian War, they fought off the vicious assault. During the Revolution, we know much about Martha Washington’s one woman reinforcement at Valley Forge and Abigail Adams share of the political struggles of her husband.
We know about Captain Molly of the Highlands and Molly Pitcher at the battle of Monmouth serving her dead husband’s field gun, but all along the frontier from New York to Georgia they pushed west and at farms and clearings in the forest they stood on their tiny plots of ground and lived and died beside their families.
In the Civil War when the men went off to war, our part of the country was run by the women of the South, faithful slaves and old men and boys. Bertha Ochs, the Great Grand Mother of “Pinch” Sulzberger of the New York Times, Rush Limbaugh’s favorite publisher, smuggled quinine to Confederate soldiers.
Belle Boyd, Rose Greenhow and Eugenia Phillips spied for the Confederacy and furnished vital information wrapped in the center of a ball of yarn.
In that terrible war, one out of every forty-five Southerners died in service. If you look at only the white population which bore the brunt of the fighting, the figure becomes one out of every twenty-five Southerners.
If you estimate military aged males as 25 percent of that white population the number approximates one out of every eight. This is a staggering loss.
One out of 45 is the highest proportion of combat deaths to the population of any American war.
One out of 25 is thirteen times the proportional toll of World War II and one hundred thirty-eight times the proportional toll of the Vietnam War. One out of eight is five hundred and fifty times the proportional loss of Vietnam.
The Ladies carried on and rebuilt the South with their bare hands and an iron will. Westward across the plains and mountains they followed on the heels of the discoverers.
Through two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and the war against Islamic fanatics they stood and still stand beside the men on the firing line.
This is why American men have stood so firmly against any threat to our homes and families, why the Minutemen stood on Lexington Green on April 19, 1775 and heard Captain John Parker speak for them and all Americans to this day the quintessentially American statement:
”Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, But if they meant to have war, let it begin here.”
Francis Scott Key repeated the theme in the fourth verse of the star Spangled Banner:
“Oh! Thus be it ever when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, May the heaven rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the Star – Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
Ladies, your ancestors and you have shown talent, tenacity of purpose, imagination, management skills, ability to communicate, devotion to duty, energy, self-sacrifice, courage, patriotism and most of all love.
Of course, it is all of those character traits that have made your contribution so magnificent. Your courage and theirs and the love that sustains it have made our nation the most generous on earth. It has made our country the most envied and the most desirable destination for those who live under tyranny and oppression or depression and despair.
So, To the Ladies, who give us the gift of life and a free country,
God Bless them!
And God Bless the United States of America!
From an article by Brigid Shulte, Washington Post, February 8, 2009
With regards to the image of Martha Washington in this article it should be noted that forensic anthropologists used an 1796 portrait to create an image of a young Martha Washington. Seeking to revamp the former first lady’s fusty image, using the few surviving records of things she wrote, asking forensic anthropologists to do a computerized age-regression portrait of her in her mid-20s and, perhaps most importantly, displaying for the first time in decades the avant-garde deep purple silk high heels studded with silver sequins that she wore on her wedding day!
Donald C. Bowman has published articles in service journals and contributed to Infantry Magazine. Miss Mary’s Honor Guard is his first novel. LTC (R) Donald C. Bowman was inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame (RHOF) on July 27, 2011. He is also a participant in the Witness to War which preserves the oral histories of combat veterans.