Painting entitled Betsy Ross, 1777 by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (c. 1932). Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Betsy Ross

Betsy Ross
Painting entitled Betsy Ross, 1777 by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (c. 1932). Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Betsy Ross (1752–1836)

American Patriot, Flag Maker

An iconic figure of the American Revolution, Elizabeth “Betsy” Griscom Ross was born a fourth-generation American to a Quaker family on New Year’s Day of 1752 in the colonial city of Philadelphia. Ross learned to sew from a great-aunt, and, after finishing school, apprenticed with a talented upholsterer in Philadelphia, where she met and married fellow apprentice John Ross, with whom she formed an upholstery business. Among their customers was George Washington, for whom they sewed bed hangings in 1774 while he was in Philadelphia for the First Continental Congress. After the death of her husband at the start of the American Revolution, Ross continued to sew uniforms, tents, and flags for the Continental Army. Historians have never been able to verify Ross’s legendary role as the creator of the Stars and Stripes. But the likely apocryphal story that in June 1776 General Washington consulted with Ross on the creation of a new flag, and she persuaded him to alter its stars from six-pointed to the easier-to-sew five-pointed took hold in the national patriotic imagination. For generations Betsy Ross has stood as the symbol of feminine ingenuity and resourcefulness in service to the country. Her contributions to the founding of the United States are commonly represented, as in a 1952 stamp commemorating the 200th anniversary of her birth, with the Stars and Stripes on her lap.