Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Betsy Ross : Patriot of Philadelphia

Betsy Ross : Patriot of Philadelphia

Judith St. George
Illustrator:  Sasha Meret 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 8 to 12
Henry Holt, 1997   ISBN: 978-0805054392

Elizabeth Griscom came from a large Quaker family living in the town of Philadelphia. Like all Quaker children she went to school and then, at the age of twelve, she was apprenticed to an upholsterer. Unlike most Quaker girls Elizabeth, or Betsy as she was called, was “strong-minded” and came from a line of girls and women who were “independent thinkers.” She was also very skilled with a needle and was soon plying her needle to good use at the upholstery shop. It was while she was working at the shop that Betsy met John Ross, and over time the two young people fell in love. True to her determined personality and her belief that she should pursue her dreams, Betsy married her John even though her parents did not give their consent. John was not a Quaker and interfaith marriages were not allowed by the Quakers. As a result Betsy was disowned by the Quaker church.

Betsy’s forceful personality was put to the test many times. When John died very suddenly after only two years of marriage, Betsy decided to continue to run the upholstery shop that they had opened. At this time in history, it was very unusual for a woman to run a business by herself but Betsy did not care. She worked hard and did her best to keep things going even though the political situation in America was very unstable. When the war really took off life became very difficult for Betsy and the other people of Philadelphia but she never stopped supporting the cause of the American patriots and she was very proud when she was asked to create the flag for the new republic.

This is not only an excellent biography about a very special and courageous woman, but it also gives readers a fascinating picture of what it was like to live in Philadelphia during the American Revolution. Readers will get a very real sense of what it was like to be in a city which was blockaded and even occupied by the enemy for a while. At the end of the book the author discusses the controversy about whether Betsy really did design and make George Washington’s first American flag.