Friday, January 28, 2011

The Tenacious Miss Griscom

One of the best/worst parts of having school age children is homework. This week, my middle son had a project on Betsy Ross. Like most people, I knew Betsy Ross was credited with making the first American flag. I even remembered the story about how she convinced George Washington to use five-pointed stars instead of six. I didn't know anything about Betsy Ross, the woman.

Born January 1, 1752, Elizabeth (Betsy) Griscom was the eighth of 17 children. Betsy was apprenticed to an upholsterer and learned to make and repair rugs, umbrellas, and bed coverings. She fell in love with fellow apprentice, John Ross. Betsy was a Quaker, however, and John was not. Quakers were not permitted to marry outside their faith.

John and Betsy eloped when she was 21 years old, crossing the Delaware River to be married in New Jersey. She and John started a successful upholstery business, but less than two years into their marriage, John was killed in a munitions explosion. He left Betsy a childless widow.

She continued to run their business, and there was that bit about the flag. Betsy went on to remarry. She was only Betsy Ross for about four years. She buried three husbands and two children as well as her mother, father and sister within days of each other. She continued to work into her 70's, and by 1833, she was completely blind. She died at the age of 84.

Making the first American flag is an important achievement. More important, however, is the tenacity with which Betsy lived her life.

I've been thinking a lot about tenacity lately. I'm querying agents, not fighting a revolution, but I don't handle rejection well. I want people to like me and my writing right away, the first time. I've realized I'm not as tenacious as I thought I was. I'm working on that. Betsy Ross is a spectacular example.