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History Alive at Northern

Posted 03/06/17

In honor of national Women’s History Month in March, West Virginia Northern Community College is hosting a special History Alive Lunch & Learn presentation on all three campuses featuring American icon Betsy Ross.

The free and open to the public events will be held at noon, March 28, Room 242, Weirton campus; noon, March 29, Student Union, Wheeling campus; noon, March 30, Room 110, New Martinsville campus. Lunch will be available beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Those wishing to attend must RSVP to Student Activities Program Coordinator Ida Williams by March 24 at either or by calling 304-214-8917. Please specify attendance date and location with the RSVP. Parking is available in the Barnes & Noble lot in Wheeling and in lots adjacent to the Weirton and New Martinsville campuses.

Ross will be portrayed by Patty Sue Cooper of the West Virginia Humanities Council who has an associate in applied science degree and has worked as a historical interpreter on Blennerhassett Island State Park in Parkersburg. She has lectured, taught and given workshops and demonstrations at fairs and festivals on antique needlework, tools, and rug hooking. She is a member of Pioneer Fibercrafters Guild, the Daughters of American Pioneers, Wood County Historical Society and has been a Wood County 4H leader.

According to biographers, Betsy Ross, a fourth-generation American born in 1752 in Philadelphia, apprenticed with an upholsterer before irrevocably splitting with her family to marry outside the Quaker religion. She and her husband, John Ross, started their own upholstery business. Despite a lack of credible evidence to support it, legend holds that President George Washington requested that Betsy make the first American flag.

Betsy died on Jan. 30, 1836, at the age of 84, in Philadelphia. The story of her making the first American flag was shared with the public by her grandson nearly 50 years after her passing. The story goes that she made the flag in June of 1776 after a visit from President George Washington, Robert Morris and her husband's uncle, George Ross. Her grandson's recollections were published in Harper's Monthly in 1873 but today most scholars agree that it was not Betsy who made the first flag. However, Betsy was without dispute a flag maker who, records show, was paid in 1777 by the Pennsylvania State Navy Board for making "ship's colours."

Although the Betsy Ross House, where she is reputed to have made the flag, is one of the most visited tourist sites in Philadelphia, the claim that she once lived there also is a matter of dispute. The living history program about Betsy Ross will address her life and has been made possible by a grant through the Diversity for Equity program of the Higher Education Policy Commission and the Community and Technical College System in West Virginia.