What can we learn from Betsy Ross?


A Legendary Business Owner


With flag day just around the corner, it’s apropos to celebrate the inspirational story of Betsy Ross, born Elizabeth Griscom on January 1, 1752. As the story is told, three Continental Congress leaders, including George Washington, had heard about her talents as a seamstress and commissioned her to create the flag which would come to represent America.

Betsy lived an extraordinary life and her story provides meaningful life lessons, including:

Do what you love. Betsy learned how to sew as a young child and enjoyed designing quilts and samplers. She was good at it, too, earning prize after prize for her needlework. Even though she was born into a wealthy Quaker family, she chose to apprentice for an upholstery business as a young teenager. There, she developed her skills sewing household items for wealthy colonists in Philadelphia and met her first husband, fellow apprentice John Ross.

Take control of your financial future. Betsy became a widow in January 1776, at the age of 24, when John was killed by exploding gunpowder while training to be a minuteman. To provide for herself, she opened her own upholstery shop, encouraged by her aunt, Sarah, who ran a business selling women’s corsets. Betsy’s shop made bedding and flags for the colonial army war efforts. Over time, Betsy was married and widowed twice more and became a mother several times over, but she kept her business running throughout.

Speak your mind. The sketch of the flag George Washington proposed was a square with six-pointed stars. Betsy suggested ways to improve the design, making it rectangular to better capture the wind and substituting five-pointed stars, which she argued would be faster and easier to make.

Save your receipts. The validity of Betsy Ross’s story has been questioned over the years due to lack of evidence and because it was first publicly shared by her family many years after the fact. However, in 2015 a curator of Washington’s home in Mount Vernon found a receipt made out to “John Ross of Philadelphia” affirming the connection between George Washington and Betsy Ross.

Have a business succession plan in place. Betsy Ross believed in working hard and continued running her business until her sight became impaired at age 75. She then transitioned the business to her daughters and niece and spent the rest of her years sharing her stories with her family. She died in 1836 at the age of 84.

What story will your grandchildren tell about you? We can help you define your legacy.


Source for image: “The Birth of Old Glory” by Percy Moran, 1917. Library of Congress.
Content sources: Wallner, Alexandra. Betsy Ross. New York. Holiday House, 1994
Buckley Jr., James, Who Was Betsy Ross?, New York. Grosset & Dunlap, 2014
11 Things You Might Not know About Betsy Ross, Philadelphia Magazine, Sandy Hingston, 6/14/16