Fourth of July – the time that every American sits back and quietly reflects on our nation’s remarkable historical figures (or loudly celebrates with beers, burgers and fireworks. Whatever, either way.) But, far too often, American women in history don’t get the credit they deserve. For every Pocahontas or Susan B. Anthony who actually gets her rightful place in the history books alongside our Founding Fathers, there are a dozen more remarkable ladies standing in the sidelines. These women – even if you haven’t heard of them – are smart, a little zany and, yes, the perfect best friend material.
So, I compiled a list of the top four American historical ladies that I’d totally be BFFs with. Have your own historical BFF to add to the list? Tell me in the comments, and help her story get more recognition.
Abigail Adams – Besides being a superfox (seriously, check out her Wikipedia page), Abigail was so active in assisting her presidential hubby with politics and policy that opponents referred to her as “Mrs. President.” She was also quick to stand up for women’s rights (and wrote a letter to the Continental Congress in 1775 that they “remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.”) and was adamantly against slavery (she even taught some slave children how to read and write, despite protests from some of the people in her social circle). Abby (as I would affectionately call her) was really smart and well read – making her the perfect friend for Trivia Night at the neighborhood bar. She also was known for being open-minded and forward thinking – meaning she’d totally be the friend in your group to turn you on to the hottest fads and TV shows before anyone else did. (You know she would have been all about Dowtown Abbey before anyone else had even HEARD of it.)
Mary “Molly Pitcher” Ludwig Hayes McCauly – During the Revolutionary War, Mary – along with a slew of other women dubbed the “Camp Followers” would follow the soldiers to their camps and the battlefields, where they would provide food, water and medical care. (She was called Molly Pitcher because of the pitcher of water she would carry to the soldiers on the field.) During the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, Mary’s husband – who was working a cannon – collapsed and had to be carried off of the battlefield. Without missing a beat, Mary took his place at the cannon, shooting at the enemy. It’s said that at one point, a cannon ball flew between her legs and tore off the bottom of her skirt. Her reaction? “Well, that could have been worse.” Mary’s the kind of friend you’d always want to have around in emergencies – whether it was the flu or a break-up. She’d totally be there for you with a box of Kleenex, a shoulder to sob on and, of course, a pitcher of water (or, better yet, an armload of Starbucks. C’mon, Mary. Get with the 21st Century.)
Nellie Bly – At a time when women’s roles in journalism were pretty much restricted to typing up whatever their male counterparts actually wrote, Nellie faked insanity and went undercover at the Women’s Lunatic Asylum in New York City to prove the patients were being put through insane and cruel conditions. Her coverage forever changed the treatment patients received. Now, this would have been a badass legacy enough – but Nellie wasn’t done. In 1889, she set out in a race around the world based off of the bookAround the World in Eighty Days. She, along with the pet monkey she picked up during her stop in Singapore, did it under 73 days, creating a world record. So, of course, Nellie would be the friend to go on adventures that no one else would. Sneak into the neighbor’s pool at night? Nellie will be the first one in the water. Fly to Tijuana for the weekend? Nellie’s already got her sombrero packed.
Mary Walton – The Industrial Revolution brought a lot of things to America – technological advancements, factories and, most regrettably, pollution. Mary Walton did her best to fight against that, as one of America’s first environmentalists and a noted inventor. Mary developed multiple inventions to help clean up the air – including a system that pulled toxic emissions into water tanks and a sound-dampening machine that helped save city dwellers from having to listen to the deafening noises day and night. Mary would definitely be my go-to friend for anything outdoorsy – from a farmer’s market to a bike ride. But be warned – she also seems like the kind of friend to guilt-trip you for the SLIGHTEST eco slip-up. (“Oh…you just throw your leftovers away? I assumed EVERYBODY had their own compost pile like me,” I imagine her probably saying.)
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