I'm sure you're familiar with Betsy Ross, she is is best known for the stories she told her children about sewing the first American Flag. But what you might not know is that she was also an 18th century entrepreneur! Have we piqued your interest? Read on to hear the truly remarkable story of her establishing a successful upholstery business during a time when women were not usually at the forefront in the business world.
Bonus Giveaway: Scroll down to the bottom of this post to enter to win the complete set of Flossie Potter Betsy Ross 18-inch sewing patterns and a ready to sew kit to make the dress!
More about Betsy Ross: On January 1, 1752, while the rest of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was ringing in the new year, the Griscom family was busy welcoming their 8th child into the world. The baby's name was Elizabeth Griscom, but she quickly became known to her family as Betsy. The Griscom's, like many families in Pennsylvania, were Quakers. When Betsy was old enough, she was sent to a Quaker school where she was taught reading, writing, and a trade – which was most likely sewing. After she finished school, Betsy's father apprenticed her to a local upholsterer.
During her apprenticeship, Betsy did what many young girls did, she fell in love. The young man that won her heart was a fellow apprentice named John Ross. Betsy and John were married in November of 1773 when she was 21. Betsy joined her husband at the Episcopal church, the same church that George Washington attended.
In 1775, John and Betsy started their own upholstery business. This was a very bold decision as competition was tough and there was a great deal of political unrest at the time. In January 1776, their business was struggling from want of supplies from Britain so John joined the colonial militia. Sadly, John was killed in a munitions accident that same month. It was a very tough time for Betsy, but she carried on and kept her struggling business going by sewing flags and filling munition cartridge's for soldiers.
According to the stories she told her children, it was in May or June of 1776 that she met with George Washington, George Ross, and Robert Morris about making the first American Flag. She said they originally wanted a six pointed star until Betsy showed them how easy it was to cut a five pointed star.
(Photo credit: USHistory.org Painting "The Birth of Old Glory" by Percy Morgan 1917)
We don't know for a fact that Betsy Ross made the first American Flag. It's not that her story is untrue, there just simply isn't any evidence to prove it. The facts we do have are that she did know George Washington and made flags during the American Revolution. Whether or not the stories she told her children are true, Betsy Ross is still a woman to be remembered for her contribution to the American Revolution as well as a great example for women entrepreneurs from the 18th century. During one of the most difficult times in American history, Betsy Ross established a successful upholstery business in a male dominated society that would eventually employ a number of people from her family. Her daughter Clarissa took over the business when Betsy finally retired in 1827 at the age of 75.
And the rest is history...
Interested in recreating the Betsy Ross look? We have a beautiful collection of patterns from Flossie Potter available for 18-inch American Girl dolls.
Enter to win the complete set of patterns, plus a complete sewing kit to make the dress! The kit includes all the dress pieces already cut from a darling vintage print cotton fabric. The neck trim and bias ties are already sewn too! All the fabric pieces are neatly labeled and ready to sew!
To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below this post by telling us about one of your favorite Women-owned businesses! We'd love to hear who you admire, who's inspired you, or who you simply love to shop from. Tell us in the comments below.
The contest is open today July 1, 2021 through Monday July 5th at midnight PST. We will pick a winner on Tuesday July 6th and update this post once they are contacted.
If I could reach my toes ; I’d grasp them and applaud a clap from all the beautiful comments that I have read and received.Thank you all for such lovely memories.
The story was a great read. My Mother is my inspiration for sewing and many other things. She had worked full time until all her children came along. She then spent her time learning new skills and was incredible. She was a great at gardening, baking, sewing, running a home, volunteering. It was from her I learned to sew. There are so many great women entrepreneurs but one stands out. She runs a pottery/gift shop. All the proceeds from her store are donated. She works very hard and is an inspiration to many.
Of course I love Liberty Jane!! I had a neighbor and friend who did laundry out of her house to raise 5 children on her own after her husband just disappeared from their lives. As a child that just amazed me.
My grandmother. She made my sister and i our clothes by looking at the sears and roebuck catalog. She would look at the dress and make pattern. While she was sewing.
We played with our dolls next to her treadle sewing machine. Great memories
My grandmother. She made my sister and i our clothes by looking at the sears and roebuck catalog. She would look at the dress and make pattern. While she sewing.
We with our doll
My daughter-in-law, who teaches school and still runs her own Scentsy business from her home and does quite well at it. I am so proud of her for working together with my son to make a better life for both them and their future family! She also works during the holidays at florists shops (she sometimes teaches floral design), and at some major boutiques.
Cinnamon and all the women on the Pixie Faire team , they are awesome.
There are so many women I admire who are pattern designers. I am constantly inspired by Cinnamon Miles.both as a designer & for her vision of bringing skilled designers together under the Pixie Faire umbrella!
I really admired Martha Pullen and the way she made heirloom sewing simple!
How fascinating. It is wonderful to have this information, makes me even more proud to have this history.
mostly my mom has inspired me she does so much and rarely gets to stressed or angry and when she does she has the self control to not act on it. My grandma also because she owns a dog business and sells them to people who can take care of them for instants in this rush for pets she knew that people would only want dogs for a short time and stalled the orders and sure enough the people who had rushed to buy dogs canceled their orders saying a dog just wouldn’t fit in their schedule. And my grandpa is the CEO of a building company and built an extension to their house!
My favorite is the dance studio my daughters attend. The owner quit her full time teaching job to do it and it’s very successful.
One of my favorites is Sabrina Leavell at Scrappy Tails Crafts. She makes interactive dies for card making and stamps.
my mother she had a little thrift store in our side porch she sold what she could and she made quilts in a small town in Idaho and she worked full time also thank you all for the giveaways
Amy, the owner of Wadoo Home & Gifts in Fort Collins, CO. The store, which she created, has weathered many storms - most recently surviving the pandemic. I greatly admire her grit and entrepreneurial spirit :)
My inspiration comes from my niece Jen who is an author, correctional officer and a small business owner with her husband. She works hard, crafts often and is a fantastic mother. I also have another inspiration which is my niece Michelle who is a NICU nurse. She is raising 4 children, one of them was born prematurely and has several medical problems, raises goats and chicken and sells the eggs, grows her own vegetables, knits, crochets, and went to medical school to become a nurse. I have so much respect for these two women that it amazes me that they can do so much and make it look so effortless. May God bless you both.
My daughter has had a couple of businesses. She ran a boutique for several years called “Urban Cowgirl”. Now she and her husband have a business on etsy called “jot & tittle” they refurbish old typewriters and I make covers for them that she also sells on her etsy store. She is very good at what she does, and I am very proud of her.
My daughter has a shop on Etsy. She crochets replicas of clients pets. She works from pictures the clients send her. She has a 5 star rating for the quality of her work as well as her shipping products out quickly. Braumwickcollection also does fantasy animals and Pancake stingrays.
One of my good friends owns a small business. She does a mix of things, but sewing is her main passion. She creates welcome baskets for new homeowners, custom shirts and baby clothes, pillows and more!
My local hair salon is owned by a woman. They do fantastic work at this salon, and have recently added spa treatments.
Cinnamon Miles is a woman to be admired. Along with being the designer of Liberty Jane Clothing, she is the co-founder of Pixie Faire and she is a best selling author. With all this she is also the co-founder of Sew Powerful. Sounds like she followed her passion to pursue her dreams.
I don’t know about the ownership of many businesses, women owned or not. I do have a friend who got together with some friends, all women to save our neighborhood newspaper several years ago and they are still going strong, so Paula and friends. Keep going!
I have long admired Mary Engelbreit, who took her talent for drawing and painting and turned it into a very successful business that has succeeded for many years. I love that she incorporates so much humor and fun into her artwork. Being a sewist, I am a big fan of her fabric designs, many of which are great for doll outfits.
Someone that I admire is Sheri Fuller of “Acorns and thimbles”. Sheri’s patterns were the first Historical patterns I had bought and assembled and they triggered an interest in History for me. I now enjoy visiting Colonial Williamsburg and have a much greater respect and understanding for how life was in the Colonial era. Thank you Sheri!
As for sewing I started when I was 6 and have been at it for 75 years, Now mostly sewing doll clothes for my dolls and great daughters doll or volunteer sewing for our Children’s Hospital.
Unfortunately, I don’t know that many female entrepreneurs. Only three come to mind. The first is a wonderful friend who is a mortgage broker. Second is my doctor who started her own practice specializing in Integrated Medicine. These MDs are few and far between and she is a real gem. The third, although I don’t really know her, is Cinnamon. I love the way she has started her business and included God in the process! I hope I will have the honor to one day meet her.
I was introduced to a woman owned business about a year and a half ago by the name of Sallie Tomato. Love what they do and their attention to detail.
I met Helen S. over 25 years ago when I took a porcelain doll making class from her. She makes and teaches period dresses for the dolls as well. She also makes beautiful quilts to give as gifts. Two years ago she agreed to become the President of our local ASG chapter and teaches sewing whenever she can.
My mother taught me to sew, to embroider, crochet and to quilt. She was very particular in having me learn to match stripes and plaid at the seams and so I grew up being particular about the quality of the clothing I’ve purchased. I still enjoy quilting and crocheting and still sew an occasional outfit for myself. An inspiring book I’ve read (another hobby of mine) was Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jenniffer Chiverini (sp?) Loved the information about Betsy Ross.
My inspiration to sew came from my mother. She sewed for me all my life making me simple play and school clothes. and at times we both would help each other with each other’s project.
I first met Sara while I was stationed in Sicily with the US Navy. She married a sailor I worked with, became a housewife and mother, and moved to the United States. Unfortunately, her marriage ended in divorce and she was left to raise her 2 young boys far from her home and family back in Italy. Speaking little English at the time, finding work was difficult. So, she started her own business, sewing custom draperies, providing for her boys, and even making it possible to send them to college. From a shy young girl, she blossomed into a confident businesswoman, standing on her own 2 feet and becoming a success.
My local quilt shop, Nelsonville Quilt Shop in Nelsonville, Ohio. Susan Holmes is an amazing woman! I also have a friend who is a CPA and co-owns her business with a female partner.
My favorite are Nancy Zieman and Cinnamon Miles and all the pattern makers for doll clothes! I am grateful to them for helping make my dreams come true!
Charlton Sewing Center was started by a kind & resourceful woman entrepreneur. Years ago, Cathy had little funding to go on but made the leap to open her store while making personal sacrifices and was able to grow it into the wonderful store it is today.
My local yarn shop, Untangeled Purls, is women owned and run. It’s fantastic to stop in, take a break from regular life for a few minutes, choose some beautiful yarn and talk to friendly people.
Like so many others, my thoughts start with my mother. She was very talented and did many crafts, out of necessity, when there was no money to buy the things she wanted us to have, growing up. One year, she made a small Easter tree out of decorated chicken eggs, which she blew out. That grew, as did her knowledge of Faberge’ style eggs. She spent many years traveling with and selling her beautiful creations. She also taught classes on decoupaging techniques using eggshells. The egg business actually brought her out of her shell.
i love SEW SMART SEWING CENTER in Mountain Home ,AR .i can always find what i want there
I would say right now, probably Pleasant Rowland. She started the Pleasant Company, which is now American girl.
I admire my sister, Joanne, for opening up her own hair salon and making a great success of it.
Pleasant Rowland is my favorite because she brought my 2 favorite things together- history and dolls! The details put into each collection were extraordinary.
Cedar Ridge Crafts & Gifts in Neenah, WI. Barb is very diligent about making sure that there is a good variety.
I have several but I started with Joan Hinds Fancywork and Fashion, Nancy Zieman and of
course the recent Cinnamon Miles Liberty Jane. I am finding many as there more and more
coming through the ones that are already there
I admire my immigrant grandmother. She raised 7 children during the depression. She taught me how to hand sew practical items and to garden. During difficult times she was my safe harbor.
So many women have run successful businesses.
Pixie Faire, Jenny Doan of MSQC and many small local businesses closer to home.
All women business have put in tremendous time and energy to become successful and many have reached out to support the wider community by creating and supporting charities across the world.
Pixie Faire, My Life, My sister Pam who has a small quilt business…All are amazing!
There is a lady who owns little shop in Twisp, north central Wash. I can’t just go in and grab what I need without browsing. A chat with the owner is always a pleasent .way to end my visit to her shop and gain a little helpful information.
So many women I know are business owners – Katie, who runs a flower farm; Alicia, who runs a farm with CSA and animal shares for sale; Christina, Lindsay, Sarah, Mega, Kristin, and so many more who all run cookie/bakery businesses; Karen, who runs a homeschool used curriculum store, and more – each is inspiring as they are following dreams and helping others in their communities in various ways.
Thanks for the chance. Of course Liberty Jane.
I have a friend that has a crafting business called Mamma Bees Crafts
Shari Fuller of Thimbles & Acorns has inspired me with her historical reproduction patterns. She has inspired my love for history and encouraged my sewing.
`it would be nice to make this item for my granddaughter so they will remember why we have the 4th of July and they will remember me because i made the dresses for them. Thank you
I most admire my mother. She was the rock in my family and always deferred to my father. Only after her death, did I really learn how strong and powerful she really was. I accepted what she let me see and did not realize all the things I thought my father did for me were really her workings. When I visited with my husband, she always had me go run around with my father. My husband stayed and talked with her. I was often jealous of the time he had with her but she put my father first. When she died, my husband called her a saint. He was right. She put my father through school, worked side by side in his office and managed their books. She would sketch dresses she saw and then make them for me. I learned my love of sewing and reading from her. I miss her, my hero.
My business partner is called Saint Eva for a reason. She is totally honest, dependable, helpful, listens and is truly loved by clients and friends. When she changed employers, half the customers went with her to the new employer!
My grandmother is my most admired woman. She raised five children by making Quilts and other crocheting and knitting things.,putting flowers together and cleaning churches
I admire many women entrepreneurs. Among my favorite is my daughter, who is the sole owner of a Veterinary Clinic/Hospital. She has worked so hard to make her lifetime dreams of becoming a veterinarian come true, and then now owning her own clinic. Not only does she help support her own family financially, but employs several employees. She has been voted the top veterinarian in her community, but she is a leader in her community and an inspiration to all who meet her and also to those younger students who aspire to become veterinarians. Thank God for her gifts and to others just like her. She is also a seamstress (like her mother and grandmothers and great grandmothers before her) when she has time!
I admire Valerie Parr Hill and Pleasant Rowland. Valerie has products for all seasons and they quality products. Pleasant Rowland started Pleasant Company with era dolls that represented the er they represented. She had books full of historical information that occured in that time frame.
This is an interesting story that most of us don’t know.
I like the story of Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, a slave who gained her freedom and became Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker.
My favourite woman-owned business is Sewing with Nancy (Nancy Zieman).
My daughter has started a non profit for children in foster care. She solicits donations and arranges birthday parties for children age 1-16. Many of these children have never had a birthday party!
How fascinating to read all these comments! I’ll add two more sewing-related companies to the list: PatternReview.com, founded by Deepika Prakash, is the online home of thousands of sewers worldwide. And my local quilt shop and sewing machine dealer, Harper’s Fabric!
My daughter started a business in her kitchen cooking an organic leather conditioning that she now sells internationally – Colorado Leather Balm. She’s an amazing woman who runs her own business while keeping her two girls and a international student busy and fulfilled. She and her husband have a wonderful family relationship based on Christian values. Very proud of her.
Many years ago, a dear friend of mine retired to raise her children, however she had many office skills. Soon she found herself providing these skills to small local business on our Main Street that didn’t need full time help. Soon she created a “Girl Friday” business employing many women with many skills who only wanted to work on their time schedule. She never dreamed her business would grow to including an office where businesses could drop off billing, etc. She now has expanded to include graphic artist, etc
My daughter, Shaunessey, has my complete admiration. Not only did she start a health food store in our community, but we call her the urban farmer, because she raises chickens in her backyard and has more pets than you can think of!
Some of my favorite women owned companies are Flossie Potter patterns, Thimbles and Acorns and Keepers Dolly Duds. Don’t forget Lee & Pearl and KeLibu patterns and Swish and Swirl on Etsy. Luscious detailed patterns.
My own business, “Dorcas Sewing and Odd Jobs”. During a time when I was unemployed I began to sew curtains, do alterations and many odd jobs for others. I learned to pray, ask God for opportunities and He brought them just as I needed the money and work. I hemmed a lot of pants, sewed custom quilts and much more.
My sister, 30 years ago she was repeatedly passed by for promotions by men who knew less than she did and had less seniority. She left and opened her own practice. Many of the clients chose to follow her recognizing her talent.
The first couple enterprising women that came to mind were Nancy Zieman and Cinnamon Miles! I also admire Michelle Bradley, who started making and marketing her grandmother’s carmel recipe and then successfully expanded into Alaura Kitchen and Candy, an ice cream shop in Pitman, NJ.
It is hard to pick just one. there are many talented and creative women who are not entrepreneurs, but are volunteers who take time to help others.
My favorite woman owned business is a private midwifery practice owned by a woman who employed all women staff in a small community that would not hire nor support her as a midwife/nurse practitioner. She was brave enough to open her own practice and built it up over a few years to hire another midwife and a full time nurse. During this time she worked 5 days a week in the clinic, along with delivering up to 60 babies a month at night. Many times she worked all night then a full shift in the clinic and back to the hospital that night for more deliveries. She finally was so busy that the community health center bought her practice and hired her entire staff to continue supporting her.
Jennifer Dempsey – Piesabilities (https://piesabilities.com/) – created the business as a way to support her daughter, Joss, who had a hemispherectomy (half of her brain removed to stop seizures) when she was just a toddler. Warrior Princess Joss is awesome!. You can here her journey here – https://www.ted.com/talks/jennifer_dempsey_hemispherectomy_when_the_half_is_greater_than_the_whole_jan_2018
Doris Christopher the founder of the Pampered Chef, Ltd. believed in the importance of people coming together to share meals. She also believed everyone should have access to well designed kitchen tools and to assist in making entertaining and meal preparation easier for everyone. Her business model included having home parties with cooking demonstrations. I am proud to have been a consultant for her company.
My mother is my most admired entrepreneur. She cannot sew a lick, by the way, I learned in good old Home Economics class. But my dear mother started to sell puppies to make extra money to raise four children. She eventually bought an open air market and sold fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables. It morphed into a full size garden shop that she ran for 25 years. My children all learned good work ethics from Grandma and good business sense.
My Mother is my inspiration with my Grandmothers coming up a close second. Although I DO admire all the brave, SMART, talented women on this earth, My Mother was an ‘angel’. I’ve always said I wanted to grow up to be as beautiful and as wonderful as she ‘was’, but I am NEVER going to make it! She was as near perfect of a person as you’d ever want to meet. BUT, she could NOT and did NOT want to learn to sew! HA! HA! My Grandmothers on the other hand, both did. My Father’s Mother made my clothes in the summer vacation for me to start school that next fall. That’s who I learned how to make clothing from (on a Singer treadle sewing machine, I might add! NO fancy stitches!). My Mother’s Mother had 12 children, so I’m sure she made their clothes, but by-the-time I came along, she only quilted, so LOVING fabrics the way I do, that peaked my interest into quilting, which I still do BOTH today, but the DOLL CLOTHES are my passion! I LOVE to shop…..ANYWHERE I can find a gorgeous, perfect piece of fabric to use for the purpose intended. Thrift shops provide the most inspiration in that aspect of my designs. BUT, I have to say, I choose the shoes first as they are much harder to come by! And, you can always find a fabric that’s perfect! Pixie Faire is my favorite place to locate my doll patterns. THANKS Cinnamon and the Pixie Faire Team for ALL you do! And, THANKS Chris for putting up with me in the customer service department…..I seem to have LOTS of questions! HA! HA!
My favorite person who loves to sew and did have her own business until illness forced her to semi retire and she still does a business online with her daughter is Zede Donohue and her daughter Mallory Donohue. Zede was self taught and owned Zede’s Sewing Studio in Columbia, MO. She is a fun loving lady who is very inspiring. Her daughter is also very talented. An inspiring sewing duet!
My grandmother taught me to sew starting when I was 5. She didn’t have a business but gave me a skill where I could have one. I discovered Liberty Jane quite by accident followed by Pixie Faire. I loved the patterns for their ease and realistic details. I started my business before I retired after 30 years as a nurse. COVID put a damper on things and I’m hoping to make a comeback with the current list of shows. My customers who are interested in historical costumes love the Thimbles and Acorns patterns as do I. It would be great to win this as an addition of my pattern collection. I have over 300 the last time I counted. Almost all the Liberty Jane ones in all the sizes. Thank you.
I feel Children need to learn the history of our country. We as adults need to be reminded how we fought to have the freedoms we have today. We need to fight every day to keep them.
I’d love to win. Happy 4th of July to everyone.
Mary Kay and her cosmetic company. Though Avon developed the approach, Mary Kay cosmetics recruited women to sell direct and share in the profits thus empowering women to improve their lives in a time when they were still fairly dependent on their husbands income. The company was founded by Mary Kay Ash in 1963.
Nothing But Chocolate is a small shop in Cambridge, Ohio owned by 2 women. And they have as the name says nothing but chocolate. Yum
My daughter-in-law’s Etsy shop
My mother-in-law a very talented lady who created and made my wedding dress as well as a smaller version for a doll that was given to me. It would of been a PF best seller for sure!
Pleasant Rowland, the owner of Pleasant Co.! The original owner of what is now American Girl! Which has created SO many more current small businesses! Not to mention, she’s continued to give back! She’s inspiring!
My favorite woman owned business is Memory Lane Quilts in California.
My aunt’s business Q-redo
I admire my sister in law. She has been crafting since she was a teen and doing craft shows most of her life. She just keeps growing and learning but most of all enjoying herself.
My favorite woman-owned business is Knit-a-Bit owned by my mother in law and her cousin. They have a little shop, but also do mail order business if anyone out there knits.
I’m a history teacher — did you also know that Betsy Ross made bullets for the revolution in her basement?
My mother self-taught herself accounting so she could run the Credit Union set up by my fathers Sheet zmetal Workers Union. It was a first of its kind and my mother poured her heart and soul into it. When my dad retired, together they opened a Kitchen Cutlery and Sportsmans knife store in Oakland, CA. They called it The Edge of The World. My dad would not have been able to handle the financial aspects of the business, do my mom was most instrumental in making their business a success.
Two of my English students (15 and 10) in Russia moved with their mom to the US a couple years after they were in my classes. After much struggle in this country, they are now strong, beautiful women with businesses. Ksenia, a model, started a makeup company and, after selling that, now has a jewelry company. Kat has one of those online companies where stuff is delivered to your door.
My favorite woman owned business is Seint Beauty, which is owned by Cara. I am fortunate to be an artist in this business.
My sister sews western themed clothes which she sells at local rodeos and festivals. She designed fancy shirts for little children so they can dress western just like their parents. The pandemic has put a hold on rodeos for 2 years now so she is hoping next year will be ‘her year’
I met this young lady at a craft show that was making natural cosmetics…They were wonderful and smelled divine.. She would be 2nd on my list. but first is Pixie Faire. I have been a fan for at least 4 years. I like the energy, the kind people that help when I accidentally buy a pattern 3 times :-) the little perks, pattern hacks, lessons…it’s wonderful. And I know that Cinnamon and husband are very kind decent people. I think I already own 50% of your Patterns. Also, Must mentions Thimbles and Acorns…The history information she adds is delightful, her patterns are wonderful and turn out great. I think making historical doll clothes is my favorite thing.. Thank you both for contributing to my own pleasure.
Hate to say it but don’t really like commercial patterns these days…especially not for dolls.
My favorite woman-owned business is my own. I have a candy shop where I make delectable chocolates. I took this business over from my mother-in-law, who started it many years ago.
Swimco Calgary,AB Canada. Local, women owned and operated.
The person who inspired me was my mother. She sewed clothes for my sisters and I and anyone else who needed them. She was self taught. We had a large family and when my father was sick and unable to work, my mother started her own small business, getting customers by word of mouth. She managed to keep sewing until she was unable physically to do her sewing. She repaired and made new clothes, also quilts. I am always amazed at how she did this while raising seven children.
Many women of my generation took in mending and sewing in their homes! I learned from some of these women and I’m really glad I did!
I admire my great-grandmother and great aunts who were dressmakers in the early 1900’s to 1940’s. My grandmother who was the “Postmistress” of our tiny little town would “put up the mail” and then piece quilts using their dressmaking scraps.
March 07, 2023
If I could reach my toes ; I’d grasp them and applaud a clap from all the beautiful comments that I have read and received.Thank you all for such lovely memories.