Is there a Revolutionary Jersey Girl in your family tree? Out of more than 6,000 New Jersey Daughters of the American Revolution Patriots claimed as ancestors by DAR members, only 44 are women! Why so few?
Certainly the realities of 18th-century American life reduce the odds. Revolutionary-era women could not serve in the military, own land and property or hold office. These social and legal constraints prohibited so many women from serving in any of these capacities and thus, prevented them from being classified as DAR Patriots.
The DAR recognizes three types of Patriot service. They are military, patriotic and civil and out of these, patriotic service is the one most achievable by a Revolutionary Jersey Girl. Finding proof of service has only gotten harder over time, as DAR standards have gotten stricter. Service must be proven with historical records, documents, or any acceptable source that can substantiate or prove a person’s contribution to the cause. Out of the 44 current New Jersey female DAR Patriots, fewer than half have currently-acceptable sources for their service.
In the face of those restrictions, what kind of wartime service would qualify a woman as a Revolutionary Jersey Girl? Interestingly enough, becoming a widow would help a female Patriot’s cause. When their husbands died, whether through military service or otherwise, these women became property owners. For that reason, patriotic widows could provide material support to the cause. If they paid a supply tax, the money would no longer be their husband’s and the widow would get credit for her payment.
There are many fascinating stories about Revolutionary Jersey Girls and their activities during the war. Monmouth County can boast of three women who are in the DAR Patriot database. Both Margaret Eaton Berrien and Theodosia Prevost Burr were born in Monmouth County, both were widows and both provided housing for General George Washington. County resident Isabella Anderson Scudder was a proud member of the “Ladies of Trenton,” who raised funds for the war effort in their own right.
Are you descended from a Revolutionary Jersey Girl? Do you have a family story about a female ancestor that can be proved and might lead to the confirmation of a new Revolutionary Jersey Girl? You can help improve the record of New Jersey DAR Patriot women!
You can learn more about Revolutionary Jersey Girls on the NSDAR website (www.dar.org). Under “Genealogy” and then “Ancestors,” you will find the names of Jersey Girls, their service and any relevant service sources. See if you recognize someone from your family. Get in touch with one of the four Monmouth County NSDAR chapters. You can find them at www.njdar.org.
Regardless of the social and legal restraints on women during the American Revolution, Jersey Girls were able to provide support to their families while husbands were away at war, raise funds for the troops and contribute to the general stability of hearth and home during this turbulent time. In other words, Jersey Girls rocked!
General William Maxwell Chapter, NSDAR
This article was first published in the March 16-23, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.