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Betsy Ross and the First American Flag: Maybe Not

Another Myth of Women's History

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Betsy Ross Shows First Flag to George Washington and Others

Betsy Ross Shows First Flag to George Washington and Others

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Did Betsy Ross make the first flag or not? It seems unlikely that she did. The first person to tell the story was her grandson, many years after her death.

I've detailed elsewhere on this site the story of Betsy Ross and the history of this legend. Since I wrote that article I've received emails telling me that I should not be "unpatriotic" by debunking this story, beloved of generations of schoolchildren and teachers.

But what's "unpatriotic" about telling the truth? Isn't history about trying to get to the truth behind the stories that people tell?

Betsy Ross was, indeed, a flagmaker, a successful businesswoman who transcended personal tragedy both during the American Revolution and after. Like many women in times of war, she supported herself and her child, managing a household and a business, and making the best of the circumstances of her life. What's unpatriotic about that, even if she didn't make the first American flag?

About Betsy Ross: more on Betsy Ross and the legend of the first flag.

More About Myths of Women's History:

 

© Jone Johnson Lewis .

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