Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution

Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution


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Listen up! You've all heard about the great men who led and fought during the American Revolution; but did you know that the guys only make up part of the story? What about the women? The girls? The dames? Didn't they play a part?

Of course they did, and with page after page of superbly researched information and thoughtfully detailed illustrations, acclaimed novelist and picture-book author Laurie Halse Anderson and charismatic illustrator Matt Faulkner prove the case in this entertaining, informative, and long overdue homage to those independent dames!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780689858086
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 06/03/2008
Pages: 40
Sales rank: 128,261
Product dimensions: 11.10(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile: 930L (what's this?)
Age Range: 6 - 10 Years

About the Author

Laurie Halse Anderson is a New York Times bestselling author known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity. Her work has earned numerous ALA and state awards. Two of her books, Chains and Speak, were National Book Award finalists. Chains also received the 2009 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and Laurie was chosen for the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award. Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives in Pennsylvania, where she likes to watch the snow fall as she writes. You can follow her adventures on Twitter @HalseAnderson, or visit her at

Matt Faulkner is a talented and clever picture-book maker whose dazzling ink and watercolor illustrations have graced dozens of well-loved picture books. On his inspiration for A Taste of Colored Water, he says, "When I was a boy it would've surprised me to learn that the word COLORED hung over a water fountain didn't mean that this was a magical place where fruit-flavored water flowed on demand." This story has grown out of his lifelong exploration of race and societal intolerance and the questions these institutions raise. His more recent work features several titles that focus on United States history, including Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson and You're on Your Way, Teddy Roosevelt by Judith St. George. He lives in Oakland, California, with his son.

Reading Group Guide


By Laurie Halse Anderson

Illustrated by Matt Faulkner

This Who’s Who cast of women proves that it wasn’t just men who were responsible for the birth of this nation. Women dressed as men picked up muskets and took to the battlefields, some became scouts and spies, and others became fundraisers for the war effort. Still others took charge of the family businesses while the men were away at war.


Bring library books on the American Revolution to class. Ask students to look in the index of at least three titles and make note of the women mentioned in the books. Who were the women of note? How did they contribute to the war effort? Check out the number of women mentioned under the American Revolution in a U.S. History textbook. Keep this in mind while reading Independent Dames.


  • Anderson presents Independent Dames as a school play. How do the dialogue bubbles make the book modern and funny? Discuss the section of the book where Anderson acts as narrator. The “story” of the play unveils what really happened with the women during the American Revolution. Compare Anderson’s writing style as “narrator” to her style as she reports the facts of the story. What is the purpose of the time line at the bottom of each page?

  • Describe the humor in Matt Faulkner’s illustrations. How does he make the women seem “larger than life?” Discuss whether this is a symbol of “independence.” Explain how the text boxes become part of the illustrations.

  • Discuss the meaning of the word “independent.” Ask students to point out the various ways the cover illustration conveys independence. Why are the eyes of the people turned toward the woman carrying the flag?

  • Study the illustration on pages 4 and 5. Identify the actual historical figures and the groups of people who played an important role in the American Revolution. Have students look to the bottom right of page 5. Explain the significance of the female figure holding the flag and saying “Hi.”

  • Explain how boycotts worked against the British. What did Betsy Foote and Charity Clarke mean when they said that spinning and knitting made them feel “Nationly.” (p. 9) Is this the same as being patriotic?

  • Discuss the difference between a spy and a scout. Why did pioneer women make such good scouts? Explain why women were especially good spies. How did it take courage to do both?

  • Describe the many changes for women and girls after the American Revolution.

  • Think back to the prereading activity. How many Independent Dames were mentioned in the books used in that activity? Discuss why so many history books haven’t given women the credit they deserve.


  • Read “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at the following website: Compare Sybil Ludington and Deborah Champion (p. 7) to Paul Revere. Write a short poem about their rides.

  • Mary Katherine Goddard ran a newspaper called The Maryland Journal. Be a reporter and interview Eliza Wilkinson and Rachel Wells. Write their stories for Goddard’s newspaper. Use the news style of reporting: who is the story about; what happened; when did it happen; where did it happen; why did it happen; and how did it happen. Be creative.

  • Explain what Abigail Adams meant when she wrote to her husband, “We possess a Spirit that will not be conquered.” (p. 32) Pick one of the dames in the book and write a tribute to her great spirit that will be delivered at a Fourth of July celebration.

  • When the Continental army ran out of money, the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, led by Esther de Berdt Reed, wrote letters asking for donations. It wasn’t long until ladies from other parts of the country began collecting donations as well. Consider the things the army needed. Then write a letter that Esther de Berdt Reed and the ladies of Philadelphia might have written asking for aid.

  • Since so many men were away at war, many women stepped up to do the work that their husbands left behind. They became blacksmiths, printers, shopkeepers, weavers, gunsmiths, and carpenters. Write job descriptions for these positions. Then write advertisements for the businesses to be published in a local newspaper. Make sure that the illustrations represent the time period.

  • “Molly Pitcher was not a real woman.” She is a legend that represents the women who aided soldiers on the battlefield during the American Revolution. (p. 17) Make a poster for Women’s History Month of Molly Pitcher that symbolizes women’s contribution to the Revolutionary War effort. Include a snappy slogan.

  • Even though women became more independent after the American Revolution, it took a long time before they could own property, vote, or hold political office. Research Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Make a time line of their plight to get women the right to vote. Which amendment to the Constitution grants women that right? How might the Independent Dames be considered an early part of the women’s movement?

This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

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Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
civilwargirl More than 1 year ago
Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution by Laurie Halse Anderson is a entertaining and educational trip through the American Revolution. Anderson highlights the "Independent Dames" who defied the British at home, protected their family, spied, nursed, cook and cleaned for the soldiers, and even a few who picked up a gun and fought in battle. Notice is given to African American and Native American women. A useful section at the end highlights Independent Dames who deserve recognition and dispels some American myths, like Besty Ross never sewed the first American flag and the Molly Pitcher story was not based off of a real person
kmacneill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was great to find a book about the Revolutionary War that incorporated little known facts about women and how they helped the war efforts. This book was not a serious-toned war book but had a sense of humor to it. It has a time line running through the bottom of the book which I thought was a nice touch. The back of the book had more biographical information and facts about the Revolution. I think it would be an empowering book for girls to read and also a book for boys to see that women had also participated in the war. Its a nice gender stereotype breaking book. I would love to have students research the American Revolution and find facts that they think most people don't know about the Revolution.
sweetiegherkin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book tells one of those ¿unseen¿ sides of history ¿ specifically, the role of girls and women in the American Revolution. The book gives examples of many women who served as spies, soldiers, nurses, and so on. Also included in the book are a timeline, a bibliography (including websites), and an index. I liked the idea of this book but not so much the execution. The timeline runs along the bottom of each page, which I found distracting from the main text. The illustrations were just a little too goofy for me, although I¿ll admit they probably appeal more to children because of their silliness (and children are, after all, the actual target audience of this book). I also didn¿t really like the use of the word ¿dames¿ in this book. In the title was okay, but I didn¿t appreciate the repeated use of the word as it is not generally considered the most respectful way to refer to women. I don¿t mind seeing ¿dame¿ in a hard-boiled detective story (instead you rather expect it as part of the genre) but in a women¿s rights-type book, it seemed out of place. Overall, I was hoping for better, although I am glad that children are being exposed to history that isn¿t just white male history.
Turrean on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable; a look at women of the American revolution. It's nice to find a book about early US history that doesn't adopt an annoyingly reverent tone when talking about the founding of the nation. Nice to see women of the Oneida nation mentioned for their contributions to the war effort. Some infelicitous phrasing, e.g., Americans are forced to give British soldiers " a place to live and food." Or this one: "The winter Valley Forge was not the harshest conditions endured by the men and women." These, however, are minor errors which should have been caught by the editor.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another nonfiction picture book gem byLHA.