Historic Happenings: The Ladies of Trenton

Historic Happenings: The Ladies of Trenton

From the battlefield to back home, in times of trouble, women have always stepped up to the plate. Whether they’re fighting on the front lines or working night and day to keep the family afloat, without the participation of women, our nation may not have won some of its greatest victories. In times of national turmoil, history tells countless tales of groups of women who banded together when times were tough in order to boost morale, support our economy, and tend to those in need. Much like in the present day, war took its toll on the the impacted communities. Here in Trenton, the Revolutionary War proved to be a trying time to our fledgling city. However, thanks to the virtue and valor of the Ladies of Trenton, hope continued to prevail even at our darkest hour.

In the midst of the Revolutionary War, the ladies of Trenton represented a bit of respite from the battle for our nation’s soul. This group was comprised of well-off women hailing from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Although the men of the Continental Army fought fearlessly, there was a noted lack of funding and resources available to these rag-tag Revolutionaries. No longer content to sit back and watch, the Ladies of Trenton banded together in order to advance fundraising efforts for George Washington and his troops. In a newspaper ad published in 1780, the Ladies of Trenton began soliciting funds “for the purpose of promoting a subscription for the relief and encouragement of those brave Men in the Continental Army, who, stimulated by example, and regardless of danger, have so repeatedly suffered, fought and bled in the cause of virtue and their oppressed county.”

The Ladies of Trenton represented women from the upper echelons of society, and no doubt had access to a far greater degree of resources than that of the average women. Instead of using this privilege for selfish gain, however, the Ladies of Trenton utilized this platform as a means of advancing a noble cause. In raising funds for Washington’s troops, these ladies not only aided America in its eventual path to victory, but represented a new frontier for women’s advocacy in the United States. The Ladies of Trenton were a poised, educated, and patriotic alliance who used their position in society to fight for both the boys on the battlefield as well as for the rights of women back home. A remarkable display of philanthropy and political activism, these fearless females paved the way for generations of women to come.

The Ladies of Trenton remained faithful to this cause until the conclusion of the Revolutionary War and beyond. In fact, when George Washington was elected as the first President of the United States, the Ladies of Trenton banded together to host a celebration for the President-elect. His arrival in Trenton was met with the smiling faces of the Ladies of Trenton and their daughters as they, all dressed in white, serenaded the President-to-be and showered him with flowers.

In a letter following the reception, Washington stated “General Washington cannot leave this place without expressing his acknowledgments, to the Matrons and Young Ladies who received him in so novel & grateful a manner at the Triumphal Arch in Trenton, for the exquisite sensation he experienced in that affecting moment. The astonishing contrast between his former and actual situation at the same spot—The elegant taste with which it was adorned for the present occasion—and the innocent appearance of the white-robed Choir who met him with the gratulatory song, have made such impressions on his remembrance, as, he assures them, will never be effaced.”

The Ladies of Trenton stepped up to the plate and made a difference for men and women alike. Through their tenacity, generosity, and commitment to this nation, these women served as a shining example of social and civic engagement. As women today continue to shape the fight for justice and a more free nation for all, may we always remember the trailblazers who forged the path before us today.

Washington’s Reception by the Ladies, on Passing the Bridge at Trenton, N.J. April 1789, on His Way to New York to be Inaugurated First President of the United States by John Jacob Hipp, 1897

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