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Video transcript

I'm Walter Isaacson with the Aspen Institute I'm sitting here with journalist and best-selling author Cokie Roberts and we're talking about the women in colonial America would you paint an involvement just in general of women in the American Revolution so much more involved in the American Revolution than I had anticipated when I started to do this work Walter first of all poor women had to go to war they couldn't stay home what would they knew they they didn't have any ability to make a living in eighteenth-century America so they went with their children to war with their husbands and what do you mean did they fight well they were they'd do a little cooking and a little nursing and they had watered the cannons they had looked jobs and Washington actually paid them a pittance but to show you George Washington George Washington the general in charge and to show you how involved they were he was constantly Washington was constantly issuing General Orders that said the women and children should march with the baggage train because he thought that they were kind of didn't look orderly but the fact that he had to keep issuing them it shows you that they were there and then they would get injured you know so one woman for instance Margaret Corbin her husband was she was fighting at the Battle of Fort Washington he got killed she then took over the gun she was injured three times and then when the British finally won the battle she was incapacitated the Congress gave her a pension so we have the records that's one of the ways we know this history and she's buried at West Point the Military Academy at West Point so she is recognized as a veteran of the Revolutionary War but much more than as fighters the women were influential as thinkers but you talk about Margaret Coburn she was a water at a pinch but I think you say she was awarded half a pension of what a man would and I don't know whether that says that was good or bad but then she fought it and got more and what one of the things you got was was rum and she got her full no she swore dessert because he took over the gun at the government station never fallen husband at one point George Washington at Yorktown of course the Battle of the Americans one that was kind of the definitive battle saw a woman coming on to the field with bread and he said aren't you afraid to go out there and she said well the men are there why shouldn't I be there if the men are there they're risking their lives I've got to risk my life to feed them you know particularly interesting type of woman fighter was like Deborah Sampson explained why she was so interesting but she decided she really wanted to fight in the war and so she made herself a suit of clothing that looked like the soldiers soldiers didn't have much by way of uniforms anyway so she she made a sort of uniform and disguised herself as Robert Shurtliff and fought and she was injured a couple of times but she kept volunteering for and so they did not know her agenda she was Robert was the guy who they rang him with she was tall mm-hmm and so she kept volunteering for more dangerous assignments finally she got sick and had to go to the camp hospital and the doctor of course figured out that she was a woman and she was then dismissed from the army but again with a full pension and and and commended for her heroism and her husband even got compensation because of her service and she then went on the speaking circuit and you can tell that life was never as good at yeah and what about the women spies well so spine is kind of woman's worth Walter and there was one woman in Philadelphia as you well know the British occupied Philadelphia and they occupied her house this is Lydia Darragh and she said to them well I don't have any place to be so can I stay in the house with you and they said yes and so she then eavesdropped on all of their conversations and she would write what they said in code and then sew it behind her little boys buttons and then send him out to see his brother in the army and then the Army they couldn't undo his buttons and read the code so they knew what the British were plotting but there were a lot of women who were messengers and roads remem distances to get a message from one General or officer to another and one of the most famous of those was Emily Geiger who was stopped by the British and they said we have to search you to see if you are carrying a message but they said we have to wait till we find a woman to search you we're just like tsa the airport's right so she read the message while she was waiting memorized it and swallowed it well so that by the time the British did search her there was no message and then even knowing the danger when they released her she went on and delivered it to general green and there are lots of stories like that great well thank you very much okay