Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Review of "The Secret Soldier," by Ann McGovern

Review of

 The Secret Soldier, by Ann McGovern ISBN 0590430521

Five out of five stars

 While there are a few mentions of women that fought in America’s wars before they were given the legal right to do so, it is a topic that rarely gets any real ink in the history books. This book is a short biography of Deborah Sampson, a woman that passed as a man, enlisted in the American Army to fight in the Revolutionary War and suffered some serious battle wounds.

 It is well known that there were few options for young women in the last years of the eighteenth century. Marriage with the associated surrender of all their rights to property and a voice in the world was the only major life path open to most women. Her early life and an explanation of this aspect of society are the topics of the first half of the book.

 Sampson found the thought of getting married distasteful, so she adopted the persona of a male and enlisted. Her fellow soldiers thought she was a mid-teen boy, which would explain her slight build and lack of facial hair. To keep her secret, she was forced to remove a bullet from her leg by herself and it was only when she was seriously wounded in a hospital bed that her secret was discovered.

 Permanently injured from her war wound, Sampson then became a typical wife and mother, living to the age of 67. What was different about her was that she received a soldier’s pension. This book is an excellent existence proof that there were some women that shook off the heavy social norms and filled what were considered male roles. It is an inspiration to modern girls to reach for their aspirations no matter what the odds against.

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