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Sallie Wister 1761 ~1804


Sallie Wister

On the twenty-fifth day of September, 1777, just two weeks after the battle of the Brandywine, the British Army entered Germantown. On the same day, but a few miles distant from the place, Sallie Wister, a bright and charming Quaker girl, sixteen years of age, began to keep a sort of journal of her observations and experiences. It was evidently written with the object of keeping her dearest friend, young Deborah Norris, informed of the exciting happenings of this period. But strangely it never reached the hands for which it was intended until years after the death of the writer. It was published as one of the most interesting and valuable records that has come down to us. Its clever descriptions of persons and events, its naive confessions of likes and dislikes, it roguishness and genial good humor and withal its dramatic spirit, make it an extremely illuminating human document.

Instances are here depicted which are nowhere supplied by the published records. And this diary of a bright Quaker girl is a historical picture of social conditions in the midst of the most important scenes of the Revolutionary times. In the nine months covered by this account occurred the British capture of Philadelphia, the battle of Germantown, the surrender of Burgoyne, the skirmishes before Washington's entrenchments of White Marsh and the acknowledgment of American Independence by France. All these with many sidelights pass in review before us, over the pages of Sallie Wister's diary. At length when the British had really decamped, and Philadelphia was once more open to its rightful citizens, she exclaims, "The Red Coats have gone, the Red Coats have gone, and may they never, never, never return!"

With this happy cry Sallie's diary closes and our little Quaker, with her humors and follies, vanishes from our sight. Little is known of Sallie Wister's later days.

History only tells us that she grew to womanhood, that she became "quite serious" and that she "died unmarried, April 21, 1804." We are left to wonder about the rest. Why did Sallie Wister grow serious and why did she never marry? All sorts of romantic reasons suggest themselves, for the Sallie Wister of her diary was the very girl to have "an interesting story." But we can get no further than surmise, and it is better, perhaps, not to puzzle with what came after, but to think of her always as the light-hearted mischievous Sallie Wister, who though only a little Quaker made a valuable contribution to American history through her diary.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


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