From Our Readers Four American Historical Ladies I’d Totally be BFFs With From Our Readers

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.)

You can read more from Paula Skaggs on her blog and follow her on Twitter.

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  1. Don’t forget my two favorites!

    Dolley Madison- Known for her beauty, excellent taste and hospitality. She was the White House’s “hostest with the mostest.” She helped the interior decorator furnish the White House and threw amazing parties! She was also a huge supporter of the arts and when the British were invading DC in 1814, while everyone else was panicking and trying to escape she ensured the important paintings in the White House (including the Stuart painting) got out safely so many generations to come could enjoy them. She’d be a great BFF… you could enjoy museums together and count on her to throw fabulous parties!

    And you can’t forget Margaret “Molly” Brown! This lady is near and dear to my heart ever since I worked at the Molly Brown House Museum in Denver for 2 years. Her parents were Irish immigrants yet she still managed to become one of the most powerful and wealthy ladies in Colorado (after she moved to Leadville and married mining supervisor JJ Brown). JJ wasn’t wealthy when they married, but in 1893 after the retraction of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, he developed a way to keep the soft walls in the Leadville mines from collapsing so the miners could dig deeper for gold… Lucky for JJ they found the largest vein of gold ever at the time and as a result the Browns became instant millionaires. After moving to Denver, Margaret surrounded herself with ladies that worked for the betterment of women and children. She campaigned for women’s rights and helped establish the juvenile justice system in Colorado.

    She also a survivor of the Titanic’s maiden voyage. After the lifeboats were rescued by the Carpathia, Margaret became President of the Survivor’s Committee and went to the wealthy first class passengers trying to raise money for the 3rd class survivors (many of whom had lost not only all of their earthly possessions, but also their entire families). When she didn’t raise as much money as she thought she posted a list with two columns- 1) Who had donated what and 2) Who had not donated at all! She was feisty and didn’t let anything get in her way of helping people. How could you not want to be friends with this amazing woman!

    Thanks for the post… I loved it!

  2. I love this! Don’t forget about Alice Paul! Girl worked it with the help of the National Woman’s Party to get us the right to vote!

  3. I love this.

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