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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Deborah Sampson

b. 1760, Plymouth County, Massachusetts; d. 1827, Sharon, Massachusetts

Many conflicting stories have been told about the life of Deborah Sampson, although her participation in the American Revolutionary War is undisputed. The basic facts seem to be as follows. She worked as an indentured servant to the age of eighteen, when, by law, she was emancipated. For a short time, she taught school, though she had little formal education herself. In 1782, disguised in men’s clothing, she enlisted in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment under the name of Robert Shurtleff. Over the next few months, Sampson participated in several skirmishes, sustained a number of injuries, and landed in a Philadelphia hospital with fever, at which point her identity was discovered and she was discharged. She returned to civilian life in Massachusetts, marrying a farmer, Benjamin Gannett, in 1785. The state of Massachusetts granted her a military pension in 1792. Her war service was given a romanticized gloss by the writer Herman Mann, to whom she told her story in 1797, the same year in which she petitioned the U.S. House of Representatives for a pension; the request was denied, but when her friend, Paul Revere, took up the cause, Congress relented with $48 a year (after her death, Benjamin Gannett received an annual pension of $80 in recognition of the medical expenses he had incurred due to her service-related injuries). In 1802, Sampson embarked on a lecture tour, regaling audiences with colorful tales of her brief stint as Robert Shurtleff.

Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). <em>The Dinner Party</em> (Heritage Floor; detail), 1974–79. Porcelain with rainbow and gold luster, 48 x 48 x 48 ft. (14.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 m). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. Photograph by Jook Leung Photography
Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). The Dinner Party (Heritage Floor; detail), 1974–79. Porcelain with rainbow and gold luster, 48 x 48 x 48 ft. (14.6 x 14.6 x 14.6 m). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. Photograph by Jook Leung Photography

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