White House Dream Team: Esther De Berdt Reed

Drawing of Esther De Berdt Reed Esther De Berdt Reed

Esther Reed was an American Revolutionary War patriot who led other women in supporting the cause of independence. Esther was born in London, England, where she spent her childhood. When she was 17, Esther fell in love with Joseph Reed, a New Jersey lawyer who studied law in London. After they married, the Reeds moved to the American colonies and settled in Philadelphia, where they raised their children. Joseph became a well-known lawyer and an important political leader in the city.

During the early years of the Revolutionary War, Joseph first served as a military aide to General George Washington and later became acting Governor of Pennsylvania. He spent long periods of time away from home, which left Esther to care for their family alone. On three occasions, Esther and her children were forced to flee their home in Philadelphia. Esther was also devoted to the patriot's cause. A Connecticut member of the Continental Congress once referred to this British-born patriot as "a Daughter of Liberty."

Esther's passion for the cause of freedom inspired her to form a women's committee in Philadelphia to raise money for General Washington's troops. More than 30 women wrote letters and knocked on doors to raise support for the troops. As a result, the ladies collected more than $7,000 in contributions and gifts. When Esther told General Washington about the results of their efforts, he suggested they use the money for clothing for the Continental Army. Esther and the ladies purchased linen and sewed more than 2,000 shirts for the troops.

Esther also encouraged women throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland to take raise money for the troops. Esther’s hard work, however, weakened her, and she died of an illness in 1780. Benjamin Franklin’s daughter, Sarah, continued her work.

Esther left an important legacy in the cause of freedom. She proved that fighting for freedom was possible not simply through the power of a musket, but also through the power of a needle and thread.

Brain Challenge:

  1. Where was Esther born?
  2. What was Esther once called?
  3. What did the ladies of Philadelphia do to help the cause of freedom?
  4. How many shirts did Esther and her group sew?
  5. What was Esther's legacy?
To check your answers, share this biography and your answers to these questions with a parent, teacher or other adult.

Want to learn more?
Visit your school or public library to learn more about these fascinating Americans.

October 22, 1746 in London, England

September 18, 1780 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Supporting the troops in the Revolutionary War

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