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.