ANNE MCKEE: The Bad Girls of the American Revolution | Columns


Every first week of July, my mind wanders to the days of the American Revolution.

So who are the bad girls? I guess it’s which side supported, Patriot or Loyalist?

For many years, the girls I’ve targeted with this tale are Peggy Shippen and her sidekick, Peggy Chew, and here’s their story.

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (pop. 40,000)

Time: 1877, British invasion

Both Peggys saw the invasion as an opportunity to party, attend balls, dress in beautiful dresses, wear jewelry, and sport extravagant hairstyles – stacked hair, the better. , it was the style of the day. But more important was the opportunity to flirt with handsome and cultured young British officers, who attended the rallies.

Between the two, Peggy Shippen has proven to be the most dangerous when it comes to plot. She was spoiled and had a sense of importance. She grew up on Society Hill, in the best neighborhood, a four-story red brick mansion. His family was considered, as we would say today, “Movers and Shakers”.

First and foremost, the Shippen family, led by his great-grandfather, a former mayor of Philadelphia and one of the founding trustees of Princeton University, were “his people.” She bounced back into her world on June 11, 1760, privileged with a sense of entitlement.

Ah, but the Shippens had a problem. It was walking the fence between the Patriots and the Loyalists. due to their many businesses, the family needed to keep everyone happy.

And so, it would seem necessary, after conflict has become more frequent in Philadelphia, for the Shippen family to take stock of their wares, their economic assets, and Peggy, the youngest daughter, to shine through. She would save them with her beauty and charm.

Consequently, the lavish parties went on on both sides and Peggy greeted every guest at the garden gate. At one such gathering, she even charmed General Washington.

It was September 28, 1774, when a forty-two-year-old Virginian landowner was invited to dinner, and fourteen-year-old Peggy dined with Washington that day.

It was said that even as a young teenager, Peggy’s conversations with men weren’t just chatter, but rather the concerns of the day. This meant politics and war efforts.

So while she and her flirtatious girlfriends danced and swayed, swooned and giggled, the art of conversation was also at work. She gathered important information for her father, whom she adored, as her father continued to dither between the two sides in the war. He had to choose a winner.

The handsome British officer was particularly charming. John Andre. He was so cultured that he excelled as a poet, actor, artist and spymaster. Yes, he was a spy for the British army. Peggy and her friends pounced on him like he was a Hollywood star, long before movie star status was known. Peggy Chew was considered his romantic partner, but Peggy Shippen also considered him a conquest.

But then he was captured and hanged.

If he was captured, then maybe little Peggy Shippen could be too. She hastily married American Revolutionary War hero Benedict Arnold. Wouldn’t that prove his loyalty to the Patriots and his family as well?

On the evening of Thursday April 8, 1779, Peggy Shippen married General Benedict Arnold. She was 18 and he was 38. But within two years they both defected to the British and sailed for England.

Maybe he was a good guy. After all, he was a Continental Army war hero and had suffered a devastating leg injury, which hampered him for the rest of his life. But then he met Peggy.

Yes, she was Margaret “Peggy” Shippen Arnold (July 11, 1760 – August 24, 1804) socialite, devoted girl, a beauty with a lot of charm, but indeed, she was a Bad Girl of the American Revolution.

Dedicated to Pushmataha Chapter of Meridian and Samuel Dale Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.

Anne McKee is a lively Mississippi storyteller and director of the Rose Hill Cemetery Costume Tour and Meridian Downtown Historic Walk. See his website:


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