In American popular memory, "wartime" features brave young men on the battlefield. In reality, women have also been active participants in American conflicts since the Revolutionary War. Women have served not just as keepers of the home front, but as battle nurses, troop support, intelligence gatherers, and even in combat. Below are just a few examples of women in New York answering the call of service.
National Purple Heart Hall of Honor: The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor is a New York State Facility whose mission is to collect, preserve and share the stories of Purple Heart recipients from all branches of service and across all conflicts for which the award has been available. While there is no comprehensive list of Purple Heart recipients maintained by the government, the Hall maintains a Roll of Honor of recipients submitted by friends, family, and the recipients themselves. For the month of March, the Hall will feature 20 women recipients and additional women recipients on the site's Facebook page: National Purple Heart Hall of Honor
Army nurse Beatrice Mary MacDonald was a New York resident and the first woman to be awarded a Purple Heart. Learn more about U.S. Army nurse Beatrice Mary MacDonald in our blogpost: A Front Line Nurse: A Tale of Sacrifice
Clermont State Historic Site: Alida Schuyler Livingston was the matriarch of multiple noted early American families but she was also a powerful businessperson in her own right who, along with her second husband, exerted significant political and economic influence in the colony. She was part of a larger tradition of Dutch entrepreneurial women in the early colony that thrived thanks in part to the equal economic rights afforded to men and women under Dutch legal tradition. You can read more about Alida Livingston at the New York State Museum and Clermont State Historic Site's blogpost: Robert and Alida, Alida and Robert
John Brown Farm State Historic Site: John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry earned him a prominent place in history books, but the contributions of his daughter, Annie, have been overlooked for more than a century. Fully committed to the freedom of the enslaved, Annie served as a lookout for the conspirators leading up to the raid and was vocal in the shaping of her father's legacy in public memory, speaking stridently against depictions of him as "mad." John Brown Farm State Historic Site in North Elba, New York, was the home of Annie and much of the Brown family before the raid and is the final resting place of John Brown and some of his co-conspirators. John Brown Lives
John Brown Farm remains as an historic site today in part due to the actions of another woman: Kate Field. Field was an American journalist, editor, and actress who helped to purchase the farm eleven years after the raid
in order to preserve it "as a public park or reservation forever." You can read more about Kate Field's unconventional life in these two NY Almanac articles:
Kate Field: "A Babe in the Woods" of the Adirondacks
A Babe in the Woods: Kate Field And Adirondack Preservation
Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site: During the Battle of Oriskany, Oneida woman Tyonajanegen (Two Kettles) accompanied her husband Han Yerry Tewahangarahken into battle, reloading his musket for him after he was wounded. She was known for her valor and her skills as a horsewoman, riding quickly to Fort Schuyler to warm of a coming attack. You can read more about Tyonajanegen and Han Yerry at the Onieda Indian Nation Or visit the Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site
Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site: The success of the Hamilton musical has generated quite a bit of public interest in the Schuyler family history. Luckily, there is a lot to know! Tours of the restored mansion can be reserved through the Friends of Schuyler Mansion Read about Angelica Schuyler's contributions to military intelligence during the Revolutionary War in the Schuyler Mansion Blog.
Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, Auburn: Harriet Tubman National Historical Park comprises three properties all relating to the life of Harriet Tubman in Auburn, New York: they include her residence, the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged, a charitable organization for aged and indigent African Americans which she founded, and the Thompson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, where she worshipped. While Harriet Tubman is most famous for her role as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, she dedicated her years in Auburn to selflessly and tirelessly looking after those who could not take care of themselves. Harriet Tubman National Historical Park
Margaret Corbin, Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan, West Point Cemetery, West Point: When Margaret Corbin's husband John joined the Continental Army, she decided to come with him and join the groups of women and children
following the army as it fought with the British troops. During the Battle of Fort Washington, John was killed while firing cannon from a ridge that is now the National Register listed NYC Fort Tryon Park. Margaret took over firing
the cannon and became grievously wounded, though she would survive with permanent injury. Eventually, she was given a pension for her service, although only half that of what men received. Full military honors would not be awarded
to her until after her death, when she was reinterred at the West Point Cemetery.
This is the only monument honoring a woman at West Point. Fort Tryon Park's drive and entrance are named after Margaret Corbin. Margaret Corbin Circle at For Tryon Park
Learn more about this veteran and her life at NY History: Life Story of Margaret Corbin