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Biographies Unit Biographies

Betsy Ross 1752–1836
Flag Maker

Most Americans believe Betsy Ross made the first American flag. According to the legend, General Washington visited her Philadelphia shop in 1776. He asked her to make a flag for the new army. The result of her work was the famous “stars and stripes” design.

Like all legends, this one is mostly untrue. In 1776, Washington was in New York with the army, not in Philadelphia. Congress decided the flag's design, not Betsy Ross.

The real Betsy Ross was born into a Quaker family in Philadelphia. She learned to sew from her mother. Though most Quakers oppose war, Betsy Ross supported the war against England. She married twice, and both her husbands died in the war. After her first husband died, she supported herself by sewing flags for the American navy. In this way, she really did contribute to American independence.

Comprehension Check

In what way did Betsy Ross support herself after her first husband died?

Critical Thinking

What part of the Betsy Ross legend is true?