The American Revolution
Esther DeBerdt Reed (1725-1792) was a civic leader for soldiers' relief, who formed and led an organization of thirty-nine women to provide aid for George Washington's troops during the Revolutionary War. Born in London, Esther had married Joseph Reed and the couple migrated to America in October 1770. Joseph became a prosperous lawyer and a local political leader, and the couple entertained members of the Continental Congress, including George Washington and John Adams.
During the summer and fall of 1780, Reed and her organization of women canvassed door-to-door and raised more than $300,000 in donations from 1,645 separate contributors. Reed wanted to give each Continental soldier two dollars in hard money, but Washington thought this would only underscore the worthlessness of the Continental dollars in which the soldiers were usually paid, and that they would only spend it on drink and gambling. He tried to persuade Esther to direct the money towards a fund for purchasing military supplies, but she decided on her own course of action. She used the funds to purchase linen, with which her society sewed over 2,200 shirts for the soldiers. Esther also published essays representing female support for the war effort. She contributed to "The Sentiments of an American Woman," a broadside published in Philadelphia on 10 January 1780, which appealed for women's war support and declared that women were the equals of men in patriotism.