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Biographies Unit Biographies

Mary Young Pickersgill 1776–1857
Flagmaker and Businesswoman

Mary Young Pickersgill is best known for making the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Pickersgill was also a successful businesswoman who helped others in her home city of Baltimore, Maryland.

Mary Young Pickersgill was born in Philadelphia and later moved to Baltimore. She learned to make flags from her mother. In 1807, Pickersgill started a flag-making business in Baltimore. She made flags for merchant ships and for the United States army and navy. During the War of 1812, she was asked to make an enormous flag for Fort McHenry. She and five helpers hand-sewed the flag in six weeks.

In addition to running a successful business, Pickersgill was a community leader. For 23 years, she was president of a group that helped women in need. She helped women find jobs and housing, and helped send their children to school. Pickersgill also helped start a group home for elderly women. Today, her former home in Baltimore is a National Historic Landmark.

Comprehension Check

What did Pickersgill do to help the United States during the War of 1812?

Critical Thinking

What was Pickersgill's most important contribution to her fellow citizens, and why?