Molly Pitcher

"Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth, 28 June 1778 (Litho)". 2014. In Bridgeman Images, edited by Bridgeman Images. London: Bridgeman. http://blume.stmarytx.edu:2048/login?qurl=http%3A%2F%2Fsearch.credoreference.com%2Fcontent%2Fentry%2Fbridgemannew%2Fmolly_pitcher_at_the_battle_of_monmouth_28_june_1778_litho%2F0
Molly Pitcher at the Battle of Monmouth, 28 June 1778 | Courtesy of the American School

Cannons roared alongside the battle cries of men. The clearing was filled with the sting of fighting. As men collided with one another, women ran fast from the clear stream nearby. Bringing water to the men was an arduous, but crucial, part of the battle. One woman had filled her bowl and was walking quickly towards her husband who had just fired another cannon ball at the British line. She listened to the fighting taking place in the clearing, winching at the yelling and screams. Looking up, the bowl of water fell from her hands as she watched her husband crumble to the ground. Picking up the hem of her dress, she sprinted towards him. Collapsing onto her knees, she gently pulled his head into her lap, stroking his hair and caressing his face. She whispered reassuring words to him, but as she watched him and heard the battle persist without thought to her dying husband, anger bubbled inside her. The anger engulfed her with the need to do something, anything. Laying down her husband’s head softly, she walked to the cannon with resolve. She fired the cannon, making it roar with the sound of liberty. Molly Pitcher was a woman who was seen firing a cannon in place of her wounded husband during the Battle of Monmouth. Through her brave act, many have been influenced by her actions.

The Revolution War took many men and did not ignore the women. Women in the war tended to the men, be it camp followers or wives of the soldiers. Such was the case with Molly Pitcher. 1 Many men’s wives followed their husbands into the fighting because it was not safe for the wives to be left alone as the war raged on. Many of the camp followers and wives became water bearers, devoted to bringing water to the soldiers on the battlefield. Many of these women had seen how different weapons and cannons were fired over time because they were around artillerymen the majority of their time. The rare experience of a woman taking over the cannon for her fallen husband was detailed by a soldier and a field doctor that observed the account. Mary Ludwig Hays, or better known as Molly Pitcher of the Battle of Monmouth, was married to her husband who was placed on cannon during the battle. Her husband was then wounded, and she took his place. Her brave action has influenced many women to take action in their lives.

Martin, David G., and Stacy Flora Roth. 2004. "Pitcher, Molly (B. Oct. 13, 1754; D. Jan. 22, 1832)". In Encyclopedia of New Jersey, edited by Maxine N. Lurie and Marc Mappen. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. http://blume.stmarytx.edu:2048/login?qurl=http%3A%2F%2Fsearch.credoreference.com%2Fcontent%2Fentry%2Frutgersnj%2Fpitcher_molly_b_oct_13_1754_d_jan_22_1832%2F0
Molly Pitcher as she fires the cannon | Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Many women today idolize Molly Pitcher as a role model for women’s empowerment. The Molly Pitcher Project was created in 2013 by four students at the University of Virginia Law School to promote women in combat situations. This project helped with the opening of combat MOs for women who desire to be involved in combat.2 The first woman who completed the project is now an infantry officer among the Army Rangers. This moment was historic for women in the military as well as for young girls who now have a strong woman figure to look up to. Molly Pitcher has become a symbol of power and strength for women and has changed expectations.

Before leaving the battlefield, Pitcher looked over the field one last time and made her way towards her husband. Smoothing his sweaty hair down, she talked to him about how she fired the cannon for him. He smiled up at her face as it mirrored his. Through Molly Pitcher’s bravery and valor, we have a valued piece of history. Women have modeled such actions and courage after her; women were given the power to take on roles in the military, and then partake in combat. Molly Pitcher was a truly brave woman, through her actions women today have a symbol for our own bravery.

  1. Elizabeth Cometti, “Women in the American Revolution,” The New England Quarterly 20, no. 3 (1947): 344-345.
  2. “After Challenging Military Ban on Women in Combat, Molly Pitcher Project’s Dreams Are Realized,” University of Virginia School of Law, accessed November 9, 2016, http://www.law.virginia.edu/html/news/2013_spr/pitcher_update.htm.
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56 Comments

  • In all my years of taking a history class, I have not heard of a woman named Molly Pitcher and what she did exactly. However, after reading this article I wish that I had the privilege of knowing who she was and what an important woman she was to society at the time. This woman had also represented the early stages of a symbol for woman empowerment. This was such an interesting read and well written, such a great job!

  • Interesting article and sad at the same time. Witnessing her husband’s injury and probably death is shocking and the thought of her taking his place is very inspiring. However, I don’t know how to feel about Mary Pitcher. I’ve heard conflicting accounts of her not even existing and her story was fabricated to promote women to take roles in the military. Thus, even if she didn’t exist, this story serves the same purpose. True or false, it still did the same job of inspiring women to fight.

  • Even though Molly was put in a difficult situation, probably in shock that her husband is wounded on the floor, she took on a courageous act that was truly inspiring. By taking her husbands role, she was able to inspire other people not involved in the war to give water to those who are fatigued. She had become a true symbol for the empowerment of women, and it was a very well written article.

  • This article is definitely empowering, especially for women. Modern sexist struggles can sometimes force us to forget how strong we really are. The use of imagery really keeps it engaging. I thought the female empowerment, alongside the love story of her and her husband, were a great mix. I felt like there could have been more though, like was she awarded for her bravery? Even though it’s small, this is a really good article.

  • The introduction to this article began so sad, yet ended so inspiring. I am sure the looks she received upon approaching the cannon were of great shock; but it is amazing how this one act of bravery made her such a memorable woman. I am sure that her husband was beyond proud, as he should be. Very interesting and well-written article!

  • What a truly inspiring article this was, it is always wonderful to hear about the impact women have made throughout history. As for the male soldiers, they got to witness a strong courageous woman, Molly Pitcher take matters in her own hands. She did not know what consequences were coming her way by doing so, but she knew she had to keep fighting for her husband. Molly Pitcher will always be someone young woman look up to, today and in the future.

  • Very engaging introduction! I never knew that wives during the American Revolution would accompany their husbands on the battlefield. Any other wive would had most likely been busy grieving their husband, but Molly Pitcher simply just picked up where her husband had left off and started firing from the cannon. Molly Pitcher was certainly strong and courageous, even if she acted out of anger and frustration. Excellent article; great job.

  • First of all, great usage of media! It clearly emphasizes the uniqueness and bravery of Molly Pitcher. What a way to start an article. You briefly set the stage for such a heroic female, who’s sadness turn into a need to stand in a patriotic manner. This was new knowledge for me, I am glad I read it, more people should! Without a doubt Pitcher serves as a clear example of the capabilities of women in the military, as well as outside of the battlefield. Great job!

  • I have never heard of Molly Pitcher. The fact that she was brave enough to shoot the canon while her husband laid dead in front of her is really inspiring. Her bravery demonstrated how heroic woman were back then. A woman’s job back then was to just care and cater to the men in war, but she did way more than that. She stood for what she believed in and made a legacy out of her heroism. I admire her bravery and how courageous she was. Personally, if I saw my husband get shot I’d break down, I wouldn’t be as strong as Molly Pitcher was. Great article overall!

  • This was an interesting article! I have never heard of Molly Pitcher before, nor did I think women were allowed to fight in battles during that time period. Taking her late husband’s place on the battlefield was truly courageous, and I believe that she had an effect on our women in combat today. She showed other men how tough a woman can be, which means a great deal to women, like myself, today.

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