PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Betsy Ross is one of the great female figures of American history. She left an indelible mark by sewing the first U.S. flag – at least that’s what was taught in school. Some historians are skeptical of that story.
Philadelphia has been home to countless historically significant women like Marian Anderson and Lucretia Mott, but the name recognition of Betsy Ross is undeniable. Her story however, may not be exactly what it seems.
The first word on a plaque dedicated to Ross outside of her commemorated home on Arch Street reads, “Credited with making the first Stars and Stripes flag.”
In that first words, clues are held as some historians question if the sewing of Old Glory really was her work.
“It does not bother me at all,” said Ross’ modern day interpreter, while dressed in period appropriate clothing, in character and standing in the Betsy Ross House.
She told us that she (Ross) was a known upholsterer, did have connections to George Washington and that documents confirm a career in flag-making.
“I am the very first person to be paid by Congress for the fashioning of flags,” said “Ross.”
But, according to the National Museum of American History, her rumored role in stitching the first flag only came to be 100 years after the fact, passed down through oral family history.
“The Betsy Ross story really came around during the Suffragette Movement,” said Matthew O’Connor, chief operating officer at Humphreys Flag Company in Old City. “Who better to say that women should have the right to vote than a woman made the first flag of the United States.”
Ross’ hands remain a reasonable source of origin for the revolutionary emblem but no definitive proof exists that the flag was her doing.
Perhaps though, it doesn’t matter when considering Ross’ legacy and what it symbolizes.
“Far too frequently the names that are remembered are the wives of gentlemen. Abigail Adams, Martha Washington. There’s nothing wrong with these women. They have done marvelous things with their existence,” said “Ross.”
“I am a bit different,” she added, “I am not of wealth. Everything I have achieved is from my own hands from my own endeavors, from my own perseverance and I would hope that such young women would see that and know that they too can persevere.”
“Ross” also pointed out that without photos or confirmed drawings, we don’t even really know what Betsy Ross looked like and with that, other young women can see themselves and their own faces in history.