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.



By Judy Leithe

During the eight harrowing years of the Revolutionary War, time and again George Washington led 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. All the while, the Continental Army had great shortages of basic supplies of adequate armaments, clothing, food, and shelter. The Second Congress even fell short in supplying Washington with sufficient funds to pay his soldiers.

NOTE: The fifty-six members of the First Continental Congress, all signers of the Declaration of Independence, were deeply involved in the quest for freedom from Britain. Seventeen of them went on to fight in the Revolutionary War, while others suffered great losses in their service to their country. However, it seems that the members of the Second Congress were hesitant to press their states for money to fund the war efforts.

Character builds credibility, and George Washington earned the highest esteem, even love, from his army, as well as the country as a whole. His troops endured in large part because of Washington’s dedication to the cause for independence, his bravery, perseverance and, his constant concern for his soldiers’ well-being.

While Washington was the backbone of the Revolutionary War, he praised his officers and soldiers as the true Winter Patriots, those soldiers who stayed the course through the deprivations and dangers of war. There are many accounts of men in threadbare jackets, and shoes with little or no soles, exposing bare feet to the point of leaving blood stains in the snow and, at times, having to survive by eating “fire cakes,” patties consisting of a mixture of flour and water cooked on heated stones.

Patriot men, and even some women, took up arms to fight against the British because they refused to accept being enslaved by the tyrannical rule of King George. There were other Colonists who also risked their lives to spy on the British troops, who were living among them in their cities and towns.

The British considered the Colonial women to be non-threatening and hired them as cooks and maids, which allowed them to eavesdrop on soldiers in camp, and they even gained limited access to listen in on the enemy’s strategic planning meetings. The British didn’t believe harmless women could be gathering vital intelligence from them to pass along to Washington’s officers, which they did at every opportunity.

Throughout the war, Washington even used his personal funds to finance a sophisticated network of spies to aid him in his attempts to outmaneuver the British Army.