Constitution Daily

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Emily Geiger: Revolutionary Heroine

April 1, 2011 by Kathleen Maher


Last in our installments on women in espionage, we have Emily Geiger, one of the country’s first female spies, from the American Revolution.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, Emily was just 18 years old, living in South Carolina, which was largely occupied by British forces.  American General Nathaniel Greene was camped in the area near where Emily lived, and needed to get a message to General Thomas Sumter, asking him to join him so that the two generals could mount an attack.  Gen. Greene searched for someone brave enough to carry the message through enemy territory, but no one was willing to take the risk. Finally, Emily, being a good patriot, offered to carry the message for Gen. Green.

Now, General Greene was smart, and he know this would be dangerous mission, so he not only gave Emily the written message, but told her what it said in case anything happen on the way to General Sumter.  Emily left on horseback, under the guise of visiting a relative. But on the second day, British scouts intercepted her! Now Emily was new to spying, and couldn’t lie very well. The British, being suspicious, brought her to Fort Granby for questioning.

Emily had two options – get rid of the message or be caught and tried as a spy! Thinking fast,  Emily ripped the message into tiny pieces and ate it.  Since there was no evidence indicating that Emily was a spy, the British let her go. Emily was able to continue her mission, and once she reached Gen. Sumter, she delivered the message verbally, and Gen. Sumter was able to join Gen. Greene.  Emily was truly a heroine during the Revolutionary War.

I hope you enjoyed these brief snippets about the women who have served our country as spies. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, and live in the Philadelphia area, come see the Center’s new exhibit Spies, Traitors and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America.


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