As Independence Day approaches, it is easy to discuss the achievements of the Founding Fathers and the men who fought in the Revolutionary War. However, where were the women in all this? They were there, supporting their husbands, serving as nurses, and in some cases, even serving themselves.
Margaret Corbin was one of these heroic women. Margaret accompanied her husband, a member of the patriot force, and cared for injured soldiers. During the Battle of Fort Washington in 1776, Corbin took her husband’s place after he was fatally wounded and continued fighting until she was wounded herself. She was awarded a lifelong pension, which made her the first woman to receive a pension from the United States through military service. However, she received only half the pension of what a male soldier at the time would have earned and struggled with her wounds for the remainder of her life.
Another one of these heroes was Deborah Sampson. In 1782, Deborah Sampson disguised herself as a man named Robert Shurtleff and joined the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment. She was part of scouting expeditions of neutral territory, helped to lead attacks, and sustained multiple injuries. Her true identity was discovered a year and a half into her service when she was injured and treated for her wounds in Philadelphia. She was honorably discharged in 1783, and after much struggle, she eventually received a military pension for her participation in the Revolutionary War.
Over 345,000 women have deployed as members of our nation’s military since 9/11, and that number is only expected to rise in the upcoming decade. This is why, in 2017, IAVA launched our #SheWhoBorneTheBattle campaign and its centerpiece, the Deborah Sampson Act (S. 514) which fills many gaps in VA care for female veterans. To recognize the service of Margaret Corbin, IAVA also supports legislation to rename the Manhattan Campus of the VA New York Harbor Health Care System after her.
(NYC Veterans Alliance members pose near a memorial acknowledging Margaret Corbin’s contributions to the Battle of Fort Washington.)
The name of this campaign stems from the VA’s motto, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” The quote was taken from President Lincoln and has proved to be outdated in a society where thousands of women are serving in the military. Therefore, IAVA supports H.R. 3010, which would change the VA motto to be more inclusive of women servicemembers: “To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise to care for those ‘who shall have borne the battle’ and for their families, caregivers, and survivors.”
It is important that when we are celebrating our freedom this Independence Day, we remember all the servicemembers who have fought for our freedom. It is essential that we never forget the women who have borne the battle.
To ask your members of Congress to support the #SheWhoBorneTheBattle campaign, as well as measures to address veteran suicide, burn pits exposure, and medicinal cannabis, visit our Take Action page.