Grace Wisher

Illustration of five women sitting on a wood floor, sewing a large American flag.
Mary Pickersgill--along with her teenage daughter, mother, nieces, and servants--painstakingly hand sewed a new garrison flag for Fort McHenry in 1813.  Indentured servant Grace Wisher is depicted in the top right corner of the image. (c) Gerry Embleton
Grace Wisher, a young African American indentured servant to Mary Pickersgill, is believed to have helped in the creation of the Star-Spangled Banner flag. When Wisher entered into her six-year contract with Pickersgill on January 6, 1810 to "learn the art and mystery of Housework and plain sewing," she was believed to be around 10 years old. Wisher's mother, Jenny, also signed the contract.

Not much is known about Wisher, but places like the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House--the former location where she and Pickersgill once lived--are trying to make Wisher's contribution to the iconic flag known. At the site is a well-known painting by Robert McGill Mackall which depicts a scene of Pickersgill and her household with the flag; Wisher is not shown. To represent the young woman on the image, the museum drew a "ghost figure" on the plexiglass that hangs over the painting.

A 2014 blog from the National Museum of American History explores the history of Grace Wisher.

Last updated: June 3, 2020

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