There have been countless brave women throughout history, but Deborah Sampson stands out. During the time when women were not allowed to serve in the army, Deborah was eager to serve her country and found a way to do it. In 1782 she dressed as a man and enlisted in the Continental army under the name of Robert Shurtleff.

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Deborah was born in Plympton, Massachusetts, on December 17, 1760. Before joining the army, the young woman was a handywoman and servant, then, after teaching herself to read she became a teacher. At the age of 22, she assumed her new identity as Robert Shurtleff.

To pull off the act, Deborah sewed herself a man’s suit and bound her chest, and despite her youthful looks and a lack of facial hair, no one in the army suspected that a woman had joined their ranks. It’s worth it to mention that Deborah was five foot eight inches tall, taller than the average woman or man of her day.

Deborah’s service in the war was impressive. According to Patrick J. Leonard: “Private Robert Shurtliff was always mentioned in glowing terms as being one of the toughest, strongest, and most patriotic soldiers in the Massachusetts Fourth Regiment at the 1782 and 1783 campfires and taprooms of what is now known as West Point, New York. Shurtliff’s physical endurance was legendary.” She demonstrated unique courage, strength, and loyalty while serving her country.

Image credits: HistoryAtPlay

During battle she was hurt a couple of times but managed to keep her identity disclosed for a while. The first time she was injured, she received a wound across the left side of her head, which didn’t require medical attention. The second time a musket ball pierced her thigh and she had to treat the wound herself.

However, soon after that Deborah was struck by a fever and was very close to death when she was taken to the hospital. The doctor who treated her realized that she was pretending to be a man and revealed the secret to Deborah’s officers, who decided to honorably discharge the young woman due to her heroic service. She later married farmer Benjamin Gannet and had three children. Deborah passed away in 1827.

Image credits: HistoryAtPlay

On May 23, 1983, Governor Michael J. Dukakis signed a proclamation that declared Deborah Samson as the Official Heroine of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.