Women of Washington

Communicating America’s Founding Principles

Women of Washington is an educational organization with a focus on understanding local, national, and global issues that are critical to our world today.

Constitution Corner

Weekly Articles About America's Founding 
Judy Leithe, Contributing Editor

The principles set forth in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are foundational to Women of Washington. In these articles we explore the lives of our Founding Fathers, as well as everyday people, all of whom took on extraordinary personal risks and challenges when they left their native countries and made new lives for themselves, and their posterity, in a new land. Then, due to the crushing demands of King George III, they defended their newfound freedoms against the most powerful military force in the world -- that of the British Monarchy. We are the beneficiaries of these founders' foresight and courage.


Washington - The 18th Century Cincinnatus - (Article 54)

August 10, 2018

The Revolutionary War was over.  General Washington's Continental Army, and his French allies, had defeated the British Army at Yorktown in 1781, causing the British General Cornwallis to surrender.

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A Heartfelt Farewell - (Article 53)

August 3, 2018

Throughout the long Revolutionary War, George Washington had been guided by his deeply held faith that Divine Providence would lead his Patriot army to defeat their oppressive British overlords.

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Yorktown - The Final Battle! (Article 52)

July 27, 2018

Through the many battles that took place during the Revolutionary War, there was a decided contest of wills between General George Washington and his British counterparts, Generals Henry Clinton and Charles Cornwallis.

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The Timely Alliance (Article 51)

July 20, 2018

Throughout the northeastern winter of 1780, General Washington's army struggled due to a lack of the most basic provisions -- food and clothing, as well as going for months without pay.

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The Siege of Charleston (Article 50)

July 13, 2018

British General Henry Clinton wanted to turn his defeats, at West Point and the northern Colonies, into what he considered certain victories in the Colonial South.

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TURNCOAT (Article 49)

July 6, 2018

Ever since his collusion with the British was discovered, the name Benedict Arnold has been synonymous with the word traitor!

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They Came to the Aid of the Soldiers - Part 2: Children of the American Revolution (Article 48)

June 29, 2018

At age thirteen, orphan and future U.S. President, Andrew Jackson joined the Continental Army as a courier in the backcountry of the Carolinas.

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They Came to the Aid of the Soldiers - Part 1: Molly Pitcher (Article 47)

June 22, 2018

Throughout the Revolutionary War, there were Colonial men, women and even children who put their personal safety aside to join in the fight for freedom, by whatever means possible.

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Leaving Valley Forge (Article 46)

June 15, 2018

The British Army, under General William Howe, had occupied the American Capital of Philadelphia, from the fall of 1777 through the spring of 1778, causing the Continental Congress to flee to the safety of York, Pennsylvania. 

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The "Pentagon" of Valley Forge (Article 45)

June 8, 2018

During the six-month encampment at Valley Forge, from December 1777 through June 1778, George Washington's headquarters were in a two-story stone house with an adjoining building, which served as sleeping quarters for up to twenty-five of his officers.

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Winter at Valley Forge (Article 44)

June 1, 2018

After General Burgoyne surrendered to the Americans at Saratoga, New York, in the fall of 1777, George Washington brought his army together to fight the British forces of General William Howe, whose plan was to seize Philadelphia, the capital of the United States.

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The Turning Point of The Revolutionary War (Article 43)

May 25, 2018

By early September of 1777, the British already had control of Canada, Rhode Island, and New York City. At the same time, British General William Howe was poised to take over Philadelphia, the temporary capital of the United States.

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When Benedict Arnold Was a Patriot (Article 42)

May 18, 2018

Benedict Arnold was highly regarded by George Washington.  He identified with Arnold's fiery boldness, his instincts for risk-taking tactics on the battlefield and, initially, considered Arnold as a valued asset to the cause of liberty.

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George Washington - Spymaster (Article 41)

May 11, 2018

George Washington's alias was "Agent 711."  Of all of the venerable titles bestowed upon Washington, he was known as, The Spymaster, to only a select number of people.  These people were part of a small network of spies, double agents, and informants whose intelligence Washington used to gain the upper hand with the British.

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Leadership, True Grit, and Spies (Article 40)

May 5, 2018

During the eight harrowing years of the Revolutionary War, time and again George Washington let his army of Patriot soldiers through severe winter storms or blistering heat, on all-night marches immediately followed by encounters with enemy forces, and even on well-timed retreats from battles where they would be otherwise overwhelmed by the British Army.

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From the Colonial Battlefields to the Palace of Versailles (Article 39)

April 27, 2018

 France was an unlikely ally from which Benjamin Franklin sought aid in the United States' Revolutionary War against Great Britain.  Both of these European countries were ruled by kings, but, ironically, we had more in common with the British than with the pure monarchial rule of France. 

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The Battle of Princeton (Article 38)

April 20, 2018

As soon as the Continental Army returned to New Jersey for the Second Battle of Trenton, General Washington sent out a call to arms to reinforce his troops.  Within less than twenty-four hours, three units of United States Marines joined Washington on the march north to Princeton.

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Disturbing News (Article 37)

April 13, 2018

Throughout the eight years the American Patriots fought against the British Monarchy for independence, communications on the battlefield were, at best, difficult and slow.

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Let Them Come! (Article 36)

April 6, 2018

A mixture of rain, snow and hail soaked the Patriot army as they slogged through the night.  Their food supplies were spent, and many of their muskets were rendered useless due to moisture.

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Victory or Death (Article 35)

March 30, 2018

Just as General Washington was preparing the first phase of his audacious attack on the Hessian enemy army in Trenton, he hastily gave battle passwords to all of his officers; "Victory or Death!"

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The Crossing (Article 34)

March 23, 2018

British General William Howe, a seasoned military officer, already had General George Washington's army in retreat...Now all he needed was to seize Philadelphia to put an end to this pesky Colonial rebellion.

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The Crisis (Article 33)

March 16, 2018

"These are the times that try men's souls.  The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman..."

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Nathaniel Greene - From Quaker to Major General (Article 32)

March 9, 2018

The Society of Friends began in England in the 1650's.  More familiarly known as Quakers, they believe that there is something of God in everybody.  Therefore, as pacifists, they are opposed to war.

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Henry Knox - A Noble Train of Artillery (Article 31)

March 2, 2018

                                                         PUBLIC NOTICE 

                     To all brave, healthy, able bodied, and well-disposed young men
                 in this neighborhood, who have any inclination, join the troops under
                                             GENERAL GEORGE WASHINGTON 
                                                      for the defense of the 
                            LIBERTIES AND INDEPENDENCE OF THE UNITED STATES 
                            against the hostile designs of foreign enemy ~ July 1775

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Salem Poor - He Was A Brave and Gallant Soldier (Article 30)

February 23, 2018

Approximately five percent of the Massachusetts soldiers at the Battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775) were free black men, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.  One such man was Salem Poor from Andover, Massachusetts.  As the War of Rebellion became inevitable he, and fellow New Englanders, rallied to the patriot cause for freedom from the British Crown, and joined the newly formed Continental Army.

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Penelope Barker Boycotts British Tea (Article 29)

February 16, 2018

A loyal Patriot of the American Revolution, Penelope Barker organized the famous Edenton Tea Party, the first recorded women's political demonstration in America.

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Lydia Barrington Darrah - Revolutionary War Spy (Article 28)

February 9, 2018

Lydia Barrington Darragh was a Philadelphia Quaker who became a Patriot spy during the American Revolution. Her courageous efforts helped prepare General George Washington for an attack by the British in December of 1777.




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Native Chief’s Prophecy for George Washington - Part VI (Article 27)

February 2, 2018

During the massacre of General Braddock and his troops--in which nearly 1,000 men on the British side were either killed or wounded, Colonel Washington, age 23, performed heroically. (Note: One of the surviving supply wagon drivers was a young Daniel Boone.) In a letter to his brother John, written on May 18, 1755, Washington exhibits a wry sense of humor in his telling of the events on the recent battle with the French forces:



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The French and Indian War Became Known as Braddock’s Defeat - Part V (Article 26)

January 26, 2018

Decades of hostilities between Great Britain and France came to a head in the mid-1700's over territorial disputes in North America, resulting in the French and Indian War.

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Major George Washington - Part IV (Article 25)

January 19, 2018

This unknown artist's portrait of George Washington appears to be the most accurate depiction of him in early adulthood.  According to one person's description, "...Washington had an impressive bearing and was an excellent horseman.  He stood 6' 2 1/2" tall and weighed 175 pounds.

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George Washington at Fort Necessity - Part III (Article 24)

January 12, 2018

As a teenager, George Washington spent as much time as possible with Lawrence, his elder step-brother and mentor...He was everything George aspired to be.

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George Washington - Surveyor - Part II (Article 23)

January 5, 2018

After the death of George's father, Augustus, finances in the Washington household became very limited.  

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George Washington's Boyhood - Part I (Article 22)

December 22, 2017

George Washington's parents, Augustine and Mary Ball Washington, were a study in contrasts.

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Georgia Frontierswoman and Patriot Spy (Article 21)

December 15, 2017

Nancy Morgan Hart (1735-1830) was a legendary hero of the American Revolution who made it her mission to rid the Georgia territory of British Loyalists.  Even the local Cherokees referred to her as “Wahatche” or “war woman.”

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A Republic, If We Can Keep It - Part II (Article 20)

December 8, 2017

Anxious citizens gathered outside Independence Hall, at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, and a woman asked Ben Franklin whether the nation had been given a monarchy of a republic; he famously replied, "A republic madam, if you can keep it."

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A Government of Laws, Not of Men - Part I (Article 19)

December 1, 2017

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary.  If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.  In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."       James Madison, Federalist #51

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An Education in Civility (Article 18)

November 24, 2017

As Justice Kennedy likes to point out, the word civics springs from the Latin word that was also the same root for civility.  And both civics and civility are essential elements of civilization.  Just consider the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech, free press, free assembly.



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Thanksgiving Day (Article 17)

November 17, 2017

By Kindergarten, most American children have been introduced to the story of the Pilgrims by wearing tall hats and buckle shoes or, as "Indians," dressed up in feathers and beads. The children color pictures of Pilgrims and "Indians" sitting around a banquet-style table laden with roasted turkeys, corn-on-the-cob, and maybe even pumpkin pie.

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Revolutionary War Veteran - Deborah Sampson (Article 16)

November 10, 2017

The bronze statue of Deborah (Sampson) Gannett, located in Sharon MA, depicts a woman wearing a simple Colonial-style dress although, on one side, she is draped with a coat of a Continental Army soldier and, she is also holding a musket and a powder horn.

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In Search of Freedom - Part V (Article 15)

November 3, 2017

The first attempt at Socialism in the New World was an utter failure.  The Pilgrims' English benefactors stipulated that the future colony would operate as a collective for 7 years.  So, the dutiful Pilgrims began New Plymouth Colony as a Socialist commune.

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In Search of Freedom - Part IV (Article 14)

October 27, 2017

In 1620, the Mayflower set its anchor off a spit of land known as Cape Cod -- first named in 1602 for extensive cod fishing.  The French and Dutch mariners also called it, "Malabar, by reason of those perilous shoals and losses suffered there..."

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In Search of Freedom - Part III (Article 13)

October 20, 2017

The most famous ship in U.S. history, the Mayflower, was not a passenger ship.  It is most widely-known for transporting 102 Pilgrims, plus perhaps 60 additional passengers and crew, to the New World.  However, it was built strictly as a cargo ship...

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In Search of Freedom Part II (Article 12)

October 13, 2017

William Bradford later became a prominent figure in Colonial American history.  But, at age 18, he and his fellow Separatists realized they would have to flee England in order to freely practice their religious beliefs.

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In Search of Freedom - Part I (Article 11)

October 7, 2017

The British Separatists and Puritans, later known to us as Pilgrims, felt utterly deprived of the Freedoms we have in the First Amendment of our Constitution -- freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceable assemblage, and the right to petition our government for a redress of grievances.  These British subjects couldn't choose their religion,  speak or write about their faith, worship together in the privacy of their homes, and certainly, had no access to redress their grievances of their government.

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The First Amendment - The Foundation of our Republic - (Article 10)

September 29, 2017

by Judy Leithe 

Take a moment and name the 5 Freedoms guaranteed by our First Amendment to the Constitution.  

The 5 Freedoms are: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; of abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

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The Oath of Office - The First U.S. Law Passed by Congress - (Article 9)

September 22, 2017

June 1, 1789 - First Congress, First Session - Volume 1
by Judy Leithe

We all know our Constitution is unique in providing for a free and just society, and the oaths taken by our representatives are important. We love our English cousins but, let's contrast their oaths of office, taken since 1868, with our own: 



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The Miracle in Philadelphia - (Article 8)

September 15, 2017

By 1887, ten years after the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, and of the republican form of government, the country was deeply in debt.  It's economy was failing, and distrusted by many Americans, as well as foreign powers.  The Articles had not provided for an executive branch, or a federal court system.  The U.S. Congress had been established, but federal representatives were chosen by state legislatures -- not by individual voters.  As such, the U.S. Congress could not raise taxes to fund the national treasury, nor could it regulate interstate commerce.  States were jealous of their borders, and even created their own currencies.  These conditions prompted James Madison, and other patriotic thinkers of the time, to begin work on what turned out to be the greatest document written by man, The United States Constitution.

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A Tribute to our Founding Mothers - (Article 7)

September 8, 2017

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year...
                    -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

But wait...there is another story about Sybil Ludington, known as the female Paul Revere! 

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Declaration of Independence - (Article 6)

May 19, 2017

Franklin Anticipates the Declaration of Independence

In 1754, Franklin was a Pennsylvania delegate to a Convention of the Colonies which met in Albany NY on "the defense and security against the French" where Franklin proposed having the colonies unite as one country.  It's interesting to note he advanced the concept of the United States 22 years before the Declaration of Independence became a reality. 

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Declaration of Independence - (Article 5)

May 5, 2017

Thomas Jefferson - Patriot. 
It was in 1765 that 22-year-old Thomas Jefferson was stirred by Patrick Henry's  celebrated speech against Great Britain's Stamp Act which put a tax on every piece of paper used by the colonists.  Henry resolved that only the Colony of Virginia should be able to levy taxes on its citizens.  From that time forward, Jefferson became a champion for American Freedom.  Note: Patrick Henry's famous "Give me liberty or give me death" speech was to come ten years later.

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Declaration of Independence - (Article 4)

April 21, 2017

After Signing the Declaration of Independence

When the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence affixed their name to that document, they knew they were committing treason; that they were taking on the most powerful military force on earth with a ragtag army and militias made up of farmers and merchants.  Benjamin Franklin famously said as he was signing: "We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”  Indeed, many of the signers fought, some were captured, some lost their homes, their fortunes and sometimes their families.  

What the signers did following the war gives further testament to the greatness of the men that assembled in Philadelphia that sultry summer.

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Declaration of Independence - (Article 3)

March 24, 2017

The World’s Most Famous Mission Statement

As we learned last week, the Declaration of Independence can be read in less than 5 minutes.  Yes, that is right - the very document that ignited the American Revolution and launched the nation that would become a “shining city on a hill” - can be read in less time than the instructions for your new toaster. 

We recognize Thomas Jefferson as the true author of the Declaration of Independence but four other men were appointed to the writing committee:  John Adams, Ben Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman.  

Today we explore the four components of the Declaration itself.

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Declaration of Independence - (Article 2)

March 3, 2017

The Declaration of Independence can be read in under 5 minutes!  However, following up on the participants' names and the human stories during this epic time in U.S. history can be inspiring.  In this document, which would be presented to the British Monarch, the Continental Congress listed 27 grievances signifying the extent to which the Colonists suffered at the hands of the British.  In summary, they wrote of their inhumane treatment:  "...works of death, desolation and tyranny...with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages..." 


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Declaration of Independence - (Article 1)

February 17, 2017

Before the writing of The Declaration of Independence, in 1744 the Continental Congress petitioned England's King George III, asking for a repeal of "intolerable acts," such as: taxation without representation (in the British Parliament); property seized without consent (search and seizure); and abolishment of trial by jury (being at the absolute mercy of the British forces in North America).  At the time of the writing and submission of their petition, the members of the Continental Congress were intent upon presenting themselves as loyal subjects to King George however, the King ignored and vetoed their petition and, while warning them that the 13 colonies were subject to the laws of England and must abide by them.

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