Women in the Chesapeake Region during the War of 1812

Many women played a role in the War of 1812, but only a few left any record of their experiences, mostly in the form of letters and diaries. These surviving accounts are most often those of literate women of the upper and middle classes.

The accounts of soldiers’ wives, farmwives, female servants and enslaved women, free black women, and American Indian women are rare. We can only assume that these women managed their families, households, and local affairs while their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons served in the military defending the nation and the Chesapeake. Some, including the fabled Kitty Knight, encountered the enemy firsthand.

Women at the time of war had limited political and economic rights under the US government. Some women expressed dissatisfaction with limitations in the new nation that claimed to value equality, personal freedom, and opportunity for political and economic advancement among its citizens. Some began to shape new entrepreneurial paths for themselves by working outside the domestic realm to support their families.

 
  • Hetty Boulden

    Hetty Boulden

    On April 29, 1813, enslaved 20-year old Hetty Boulden reportedly helped save Elkton, MD from being torched by British troops during the War

  • Known as the “Mistress of Riversdale,” Rosalie Stier Calvert witnessed the Battle of Bladensburg.

    Rosalie Stier Calvert

    Known as the “Mistress of Riversdale,” Rosalie Stier Calvert witnessed the Battle of Bladensburg.

  • From her residence at Mount Welby, Mary DeButts observed some of the war actions in the Chesapeake.

    Mary DeButts

    From her residence at Mount Welby, Mary DeButts observed some of the war actions in the Chesapeake.

  • An engraving of an old town with brick buildings, horse-drawn carts, and people walking around.

    Lucinda "Lucy" Hall

    Enslaved in Southern Maryland, Lucy Hall escaped to the British with her family and resettled in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

  • According to legend, Kitty Knight helped save two private homes from British raiders.

    Kitty Knight

    According to local legend, Kitty Knight helped save two private homes in Georgetown, Maryland, from British destruction.

  • Dolley Madison was the first lady during the War of 1812.

    Dolley Madison

    Dolley Madison was the first lady during the War of 1812.

  • Drawing of Girl with brown hair looking confused

    Matilda O’Neill

    During the War of 1812, 15-year-old Matilda O'Neill reportedly helped to secure the release of her father John O'Neill when he was taken as

  • Mary Pickersgill and her team sewed the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key.

    Mary Pickersgill

    Mary Pickersgill and her team sewed the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the words that became the national anthem.

  • Elizabeth Warner Sands

    Elizabeth Warner Sands

    Elizabeth Warner Sands is known for her efforts tending to wounded soldiers from the Battle of North Point.

  • Text on a white newspaper page from the mid-1800s.

    Sukey

    Sukey was Dolley Madison's enslaved maid who helped save valuables from the White House.

  • Grace Wisher, an African American indentured servant, helped made the Star-Spangled banner.

    Grace Wisher

    Grace Wisher, a young African American indentured servant, is believed to have helped in the creation of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Last updated: July 25, 2022

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