Lesson Plan: Overview

Revolutionary Women of South Carolina

Grade Level: 8th

Rebecca Motte's Pension

Academic Standards

Standard 8-2: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Revolution—the beginnings of the new American nation and South Carolina’s part in the development of that nation.

8-2.2 Compare the perspectives and roles of different South Carolinians during the American Revolution, including those of political leaders, soldiers, partisans, Patriots, Tories/Loyalists, women, African Americans, and Native Americans.
Social Studies Literacy Elements
K. Use texts, photographs, and documents to observe and interpret social studies trends and relationships
L. Interpret calendars, time lines, maps, charts, tables, graphs, flow charts, diagrams, photographs, paintings, cartoons, architectural drawings, documents, letters, censuses, and other artifacts
O. Consider multiple perspectives of documents and stories

Historical Background Notes

The role of women in the Revolutionary War varied from woman to woman.  There were women who took the place of their husbands at home by running the farm or plantation.  Others followed their husbands off to war and worked as cooks or nurses.  Then there are the unsung heroes.  Those women whose unselfish acts of courage aided the Patriot cause and helped America win a victory against the British.

Emily Geiger, a young woman who lived with her elderly father in the Tory infested backcountry of South Carolina, is an example of a brave woman whose heroics have been overlooked in history books.  In 1781, General Nathanael Greene, Commander of the American Continental Army in the South, needed to get a message to Generals Thomas Sumter and Francis Marion and did not know who could successfully deliver the message.  Greene needed their help in an attack against the British, led by Lord Francis Rawdon (Diamant 1998, 165).  Geiger bravely volunteered to make the long and dangerous ride from Greene’s camp on the Broad River to Sumter’s camp on the Wateree River (Bodie 1998, 7).  On the second day of Geiger’s journey she was stopped by one of Rawdon’s scouts and taken prisoner (Diamant 1998, 165).  To keep the Tory from finding the message she was carrying Geiger memorized every word then tore it into shreds and ate the shreds of paper (Homecourt 2005, 76).  Geiger was eventually released and made her way to Sumter where she repeated Greene’s message exactly as it was written.  Sumter and Marion were able to join with Greene and help defeat the British.  Geiger was later given gifts for her bravery including ones from Martha Washington (Young 1979).  It has also been said that the woman on the state seal of South Carolina was designed to resemble Emily Geiger.

Rebecca Motte is another South Carolina woman who aided the Patriot cause during the Revolutionary War.  After the city of Charleston fell to the British in 1780, Motte and her children moved to a family summer home to the Congaree River in present day Calhoun County (Homecourt 2005, 78).  Motte had been helping the American Continental soldiers through out the war by giving them supplies, but her greatest contribution came in May 1781.  British soldiers had taken over her home on the Congaree River and were using it as a fort between Charleston and Camden (Lee 1969, 344).  The British had moved Motte out of the main house and into a smaller house on the plantation.  Continental forces under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Lee and General Francis Marion were advancing to siege the fort (Lee 1969, 345).  Lee and Marion determined that the only war to recapture the fort was to force the British out by burning the home.  When Lee informed Motte of their plans Motte immediately approved of the measure and was glad to help.  Motte even went so far as to help by giving the colonel a set of bows and arrows to use to set the house on fire (Lee 1969, 347).  Motte was later given payment for her services during the war.

Dorothy Sinkler Richardson was a brave woman from present day Clarendon County who supported the Patriot cause.  Dorothy Sinkler was the wife of General Richard Richardson, who died after being taken prisoner by the British during the fall of Charleston in 1780.  British Colonel Banastre Tarleton and his troops home burned Richardson’s family in 1781.  This was after Dorothy Sinkler sent her son out to warn Francis Marion and his men that Tarleton was in the area and on Marion’s trail to capture him.  This message allowed Marion and his men to escape Tarleton again (James 1821, 35).  Before he burned the family home, Tarleton forced Dorothy Richardson to feed him and then he had the corpse of General Richard Richardson dug up because he “wanted to look into the face of a real general” (Edgar 1998, 234).


  Primary Sources
  James, William D.  A Sketch of the Life of Brig. General Francis Marion.  Charleston: Gould & Riley, 1948 reprint.
  Lee, Henry.  Memoirs of the War in The Southern Department of the US.  New York: Arno Press, 1969 reprint.
  Revolutionary War indent issued as payment for services rendered during the war to Rebecca Motte 1783.  Records of the Comptroller General, Accounts Audited for Revolutionary Service, AA5383-A.  South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.
  Secondary Sources
  Bodie, Idella.  The Secret Messenger.  Orangeburg:  Sandlapper Publishing, 1998.
  Diamant, Lincoln.  Revolutionary Women in the War for American Independence: A 1-Volume Revised Edition of Elizabeth Ellet’s 1848 Landmark Series. Westport:  Praeger, 1998.
  Edgar, Walter B.  South Carolina:  A History.  Columbia:  University of South Carolina Press, 1998.
  Gordon, John N.  South Carolina and the American Revolution:  A Battlefield History. Columbia:  University of South Carolina Press, 2003.
  Roberts, Cokie.  Founding Mothers.  New York:  Perennial, 2005.
  Sauls, Virginia R.  Big Home.  Clarendon County Archives, Manning, South Carolina.
  United States Department of the Interior National Park Service.  National Register of Historic Places.  Nomination form for Fort Motte, South Carolina, 1972.
  Young, Marjorie.  South Carolina Women Patriots of the American Revolution. Anderson County Historical Society, 1979.
  Graphic organizer to compare women
  Copy of South Carolina State Seal
  Document analysis form

Lesson Plans

1. Students will read the stories “Beyond the Call of Duty” about Emily Geiger and  “Sacrificeing For the Cause” about Rebecca Motte, from the South Carolina: Great Stories that Embrace the History of the Palmetto State, and the Big Home.
2. Students will analyze the following documents:  Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the US by Henry Lee, James diary entry, and Motte's war indent for repayment of war services.
3. Students will then complete a graphic organizer comparing all 3 women’s backgrounds, sacrifices and rewards.
4. Last, the students will complete an essay writing assignment on the following topic:  Do you think it would be unusual for a woman today to volunteer for a dangerous mission. Support your opinions with an example from today’s world.

Teacher Reflections

The students appear to find the primary sources that I have incorporated very interesting.  When the students can hold something in their hand written by someone over 200 years ago its makes history more relevant to them and gives the students a greater understanding.  This is when history comes alive for them. I think the primary sources are important because it shows the students history from the point of view of a person who was actually there, instead of what is written in a textbook.   

Student Assessments

Teacher used attached rubric.

Examples of Students Work

No examples available for this lesson plan.


Kim Harrelson
Pee Dee Summer Institute