The Female Review: The Life of Deborah Sampson

Frontispiece and title page of [Herman Mann], The Female Review: Or, Memoirs of an American Young Lady by a Citizen of Massachusetts. Dedham MA: Nathaniel and Benjamin Heaton, 1797. Image from the Massachusetts Historical Society, permission pending.

The Female Review is a biography of Deborah Sampson Gannett, a woman who successfully disguised her gender for over a year while serving in the Revolutionary War. Sampson became publicly known during the 1790s, when she petitioned the Massachusetts State Legislature for the pension payments that had been withheld from her on the basis of her gender. The Female Review is said to have been widely embellished and sensationalized by the author. Entire scenes, most notably Sampson’s purported service in the Battle of Yorktown, were debunked as inaccurate or impossible in the years following its publication. In his preface, Mann admits to having “taken liberty to intersperse, through the whole, a series of moral reflections,” which implore his female readership not to follow Sampson’s example and instead stress the importance of emulating her virtue in the performance of feminine, domestic tasks.

The account was reprinted several times, notably after the Civil War in 1866, with the sub-title “The Life of Deborah Sampson, The Female Soldier in the War of the Revolution.”

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