Who Was Betsy Ross?


Betsy Ross, who was actually named Elizabeth Griscom at birth, was born on January 1, 1752 in Philadelphia, PA. Her family belonged to the Society of Friends, religious affiliation, which made her live a life of strict rules and it also demanded simplicity. When she was a young girl her great-aunt taught her the art of sewing. At the age of 21, Elizabeth, or Betsy, got married to a one John Ross who was an upholsterer at the time. The ceremony held in 1773, was in a tavern and they eloped which went against the stringent guidelines of her religion, so caused separation between the Ross family and the Society of Friends. The Ross’ quickly started their own family business that specialized in upholstery, because of the skill sets of John and Betsy. 

The year 1775 marked the start of the Revolutionary War in which Americans fought for their independence from European rule. The war made it very difficult to acquire the fabric that they depended on to conduct business, so the family venture struggled, terribly. John joined a militia in Pennsylvania and was killed in 1776, so Betsy was left to run the failing business alone.  Soon after this point in time, Betsy joined a fighting group of Quakers, which was an updated name for the Society of Friends, who strongly supported the war effort. In 1777, Betsy remarried a man named Joseph Ashburn and she began to nurse soldiers from both sides in the war, after the Battle of Germantown concluded. In the winter of 1777 Betsy Ross reportedly met with George Washington, among other founding fathers of America to discuss making stars and stripes patterned flags. It is believed that Ross’ upholstery business was also sewing flags for the Navy, a receipt and a folded star pattern is all of the hard evidence that has been ever publicly known of. Betsy continued making flags for the United States of America until 1827, when she finally reached the point of a well deserved retirement. 

Today, the modern American Flag reminds this country of how far we have come and who to thank for the flag’s origination. The physical monument that serves the purpose of helping the nation remember Betsy is the Betsy Ross House, which is located in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. As legend has it, this is the place where she not only lived, but also sewed the first American flag.  This former home resides a few blocks from Independence Hall which is the location where the Declaration of Independence was formed. Betsy was historically placed at this residence between the years of 1773 and 1785. In the year 1937, a well know radio personality paid a historical architect $25,000 to bring the diminished building back into good condition. Materials from the original house and from the times were used whenever and wherever possible. A few of the surrounding properties were purchased and added to the estate and the entire package was handed over to the city in 1941. In 1976, the remains of Betsy Ross and her 3rd husband were moved onto the property and buried in a courtyard area. Today the estate is managed by Historic Philadelphia, a not-for-profit organization. 

Betsy Ross was skilled in sewing a majority of her life and she has been given credit for creating the first American Flag. In her life she dealt with struggles, pain, and loss and through it all she remained dedicated and loyal to her country. She is a patriot and will always be remembered for her contribution to shaping the heritage that this country celebrates today.