Well behaved women, ninth quatrain

Yes, it will go on for more than four lines.  Sue me.

Given the recent smattering of controversies surrounding the American flag and the saluting or the burning thereof, I thought now would be a good time to tip my hat to the lovely and gracious Betsy Ross, the colonial American seamstress who is credited with creating the first American flag.  According to some accounts, Ross is responsible for why we have five-pointed stars instead of the six-pointed stars General Washington sketched in his concept idea for the new flag, and though this is not a historical certainty, it would be an indelible fingerprint (or rather, fifty of them) on every American flag to this day.

Betsy was more than just a seamstress.  She was widowed twice by the time she was in her twenties, once to a soldier who died guarding a colonial munitions depot (some claim in a gunpowder explosion though this is not certain), and again to a colonial seaman who was captured by the British during the war, imprisoned for treason against the crown, and died in the British lockup.  Further and less substantiated legend has it that Betsy was the “beautiful young widow” mentioned in reports concerning British commander Carl von Donop and his preoccupation for Christmas Day of 1776.  As a result of whatever flights of fancy Count von Donop engaged in on that Christmas Day, he and his forces were not in their otherwise-scheduled position to be able to assist Hessian forces in Trenton on the very day General Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware (yeah, as in THAT time) and ambushed them.

Whether she was the beautiful temptress whose feminine wiles kept the attention of reinforcements while George Washington demonstrated for all time to come why you do not want to mess around with Americans because we will cross icy waters to come kill you in your sleep on Christmas or not, Betsy Ross lost much in the struggle for independence and when it was done gave us the most awesome flag a human nation has ever flown.  So the next time you want to pee on one or light one on fire, give some thought to the woman who lost not one but two husbands and maybe did some unmentionable things to distract an unsavory mercenary commander in the service of making the country that flag represents, and maybe consider you don’t have it quite as badly as you have imagined.

Next week, another woman who made history that history would have been better off without.


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