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Betsy Ross Lesson for Kids: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Debra Patuto

Debra has taught at elementary levels and has an M.ed with certification in elementary education and special education

Betsy Ross has been credited with making the first American flag, does this story agree with the historical facts? Let's take a closer look at Betsy, her life, and her connection to the creation of the American flag.

Betsy Ross: Early Life

Betsy Ross was born on Jan. 1, 1752, by the name of Elizabeth Griscom. Her father was a firm believer in the Quaker religion, which was a branch of Christianity that focused on peace and friendship. Betsy attended Quaker school with her siblings (she was the 8th of 17 children!) where she was taught basic skills such as reading and writing. It's believed that this is where she learned how to sew.

After finishing school, she became an apprentice for an upholsterer (someone who puts fabric on furniture). This also happens to be where she fell in love with a man named John Ross. Unfortunately, John was a member of the Episcopal church, and Betsy was forbidden by her religion to marry him. They did anyways--the two eloped in November 1773. Her family never forgave her for this, and the Quaker church wrote Betsy off, as well.

Making of the Flag

Betsy and John went on to open their own upholstery business. They also joined the Christ Church, which is where they met the first president of United States, George Washington. Can you imagine going to church on a Sunday morning and seeing the president sitting just a few seats away from you? Betsy became not only the seamstress, but also good friends, of President Washington and his wife Martha.

The Betsy Ross house, now a museum, is where Betsy made the American flag.
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In the late 1800s, Betsy Ross's grandson gave the first written account of Betsy's role in creating the flag. He said that, one day in spring of 1776, members of a secret committee of Congress approached her on Washington's orders asking if she could sew a flag for America. She accepted and made some changes to the original design, notably changing the six-pointed star to a five-pointed star. She finished the flag in time for July 8, when the Declaration of Independence was read aloud to the public for the first time.

While the story of Betsy Ross making the first American flag has lived on in U.S. history, many historians think the story is fiction. First, there is no evidence of a secret congressional committee. After all, Washington was not a member of Congress and there are no records of Congress addressing the topic of a flag until the first Flag Act passed in 1777. There are also no written materials of any kind that show that George Washington and Betsy Ross ever even came in contact.

It's not exactly clear to us who created the first American flag because this exact role in history was not well-documented at the time. Scholars currently agree that a man named Franklin Hopkinson is the man with the best claim, because he is the only man with historical documents (requests for payment) that tie him to the design of the American flag in the late 1700s.

This painting portrays Betsy Ross and George Washington, though there is no solid evidence that this scene actually occurred.
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