Spending the last four years, arguing in court for Mary Wilson's widow pension to be reinstated, Jack Crimshaw felt exhausted in his fight. Questioning his own ability to argue Mary's case, feeling deflated and defeated, but yet reminding himself: 'this is not about you, it's about a woman living almost a century and deserving much more than what she has been given.'
As Jack stood in front of the judge, he plead for the reinstatement of Mary Wilson's Revolutionary War widow's pension. Speaking with words of passion, Jack remarked that Thomas Wilson:
"was a soldier under Washington and Braddick in the War of 1755. His widow states her husband provided service of the U.S. nearly all of the Revolutionary War....Thomas Wilson was a recruiting officer on the Potomac...that Mary Wilson is very poor, old and frail of body and mind, and it looks as if it has been a great hardship after buffeting the storms of life for near a century. Her husband having spent 20 years of his life in the service of his country, before, during and after the Revolution...that her country should refuse her a small pension."
With certainty, the judge's ruling was made and Jack would soon have to look into the eyes of a 98 year old great grandmother, a face worn from years of hard work, and tell her the fight may well be over. But with every loss, Mary Wilson had grown even more determined to win. Taking great pride in her husband's long service to his country, the fight had become more for the affirmation of Thomas Wilson's life, a life given with pride to the country he loved.
Was Mary Wilson's Revolutionary widow's pension ever reinstated before she died at the age of 100 in 1850? Proof has not been found to confirm the reinstatement, but the pension file provides a glimpse into the life of a proud woman. One who stood by her husband's side throughout years of military service yet finding herself in midlife, a poor widow, left to support her family without the means to do so. And unfortunately, Mary's struggle to claim a widow's pension, was not much different from many other women in the 1800's.
The month of March is Women's History Month. It is a time to reflect on our female ancestor's lives. Their successes, struggles, and the fight that many took on for individual rights, not just of their own but also for all of us. And the review of an ancestor's military pension file is not only for the confirmation of a patriot's service. It is also a record of the life of the patriot's wife, whether found within her own words or through records left by the court.
Find your female ancestor in the military widow pension files found at Footnote.com or order them through the National Archives. Listen to their stories not just for the purpose of learning of their husband's service, but to understand their lives. The wives of the soldiers: their sacrifices, their struggles, their stories.
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