It is only fitting that Betsy Ross be my VIP for this week. The name Betsy Ross has been in the news more and more over the past week, and it was news for a very silly reason. Nike designed a sneaker with the Betsy Ross American flag on its heel, but the company pulled the shoe from the market just before Americans celebrated Independence Day.
This action was taken upon the advice of a former NFL quarterback who I refuse to name because of his disrespect for the flag. Conservatives are upset with Nike, but the notoriety brings more business to the company. It definitely brought more business to at least one flag company that is selling a thousand Betsy Ross flags each day where they were selling about thirty. “Fox and Friends” sent a reporter to do a story about the famous seamstress and flag maker, Betsy Ross. You can watch the history lesson here. It takes place at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia.
According to this site, Betsy Ross was born on January 1, 1752, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and given the name of Elizabeth Griscom. She was the eighth of seventeen children born to her parents. Her great-grandfather was a carpenter and immigrated to New Jersey in 1680 from England, making her a fourth-generation American. Betsy’s parents were Quakers, and she attended Quaker schools with her sisters. There she “learned sewing and other crafts common in her day.”
Betsy finished her education, and “her father apprenticed her to a local upholsterer.” She was seventeen years old when she met John Ross, an Anglican, who was a fellow apprentice. The two young people fell in love, which caused a big problem because he was not a Quaker. When Betsy married John in 1772, she was banished by both her family and the Quaker meeting house. The couple eventually opened their own upholstery business, and Betsy’s sewing skills were helpful there.
John was killed in a gunpowder explosion in 1776 at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. He was serving militia duty at the Philadelphia waterfront when the explosion occurred. Betsy became sole owner of his property and kept the upholstery business going. She worked long hours making flags for Pennsylvania.
After being a widow for about a year, Betsy married Joseph Ashburn, a sailor. A few years later in 1781 his ship was captured by the British, and he died in prison a year later. Betsy married a third time in 1783 to John Claypoole. John had been in prison with Joseph Ashburn and brought Joseph’s farewells to Betsy. The third time must have been charmed because John lived 34 more years before dying in 1817 after a long disability.
Betsy died on January 30, 1836, at the age of 84, in Philadelphia [after a difficult but impressive life]. The story of her making the first American flag was shared with the public by her grandson nearly 50 years after her passing. The story goes that she made the flag in June of 1776 after a visit from President George Washington, Robert Morris, and her husband’s uncle, George Ross. Her grandson’s recollections were published in Harper’s Monthly in 1873, but today most scholars agree that it was not Betsy who made the first flag. However, Betsy was without dispute a flagmaker who, records show, was paid in 1777 by the Pennsylvania State Navy Board for making “ship’s colours, &c.”
Although the Betsy Ross House, where she is reputed to have made the flag, is one of the most visited tourist sites in Philadelphia, the claim that she once lived there is also [a] matter of dispute. Despite the unlikelihood of the story for which she is known, Betsy Ross is, however, a fine example of what many women of her time audaciously endured: widowhood, single motherhood, managing household and property independently and quickly remarrying for economic reasons, and her story and her life are nonetheless stitched into the fabric of American history.
The former quarterback might not have been so quick to reject the Betsy Ross American flag sneaker if he had known her history. Even though he continues to push the narrative that her flag was connected to slavery, history proves him wrong. Betsy was a Quaker, a group of believers that was known as the Society of Friends. This site shares the following information.
The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) was the first corporate body in Britain and North America to fully condemn slavery as both ethically and religiously wrong in all circumstances. It is in Quaker records that we have some of the earliest manifestations of anti-slavery sentiment, dating from the 1600s. After the 1750s, the Quakers actively engaged in attempting to sway public opinion in Britain and America against the slave trade and slavery in general. At the same time, Quakers became actively involved in the economic, educational and political well-being of the formerly enslaved.
The earliest anti-slavery organizations in America and Britain consisted primarily of members of the Society of Friends. Thus much of the record of the development of anti-slavery though and actions is embedded in Quaker-produced records and documents….
So we can assume that Nike and their former NFL quarterback were wrong in their condemnation of Betsy Ross. However, they are not backing down from their position, and other non-historians are joining them in their disapproval. It seems that there are numerous Americans who are not concerned with facts as they push their agenda on the American people. They keep pushing their ideas in order to gain as many followers as possible. May God keep America safe from such people!