“Molly Pitcher,” born Mary Ludwig and married to William Hays, is best known for participating in the Battle of Monmouth, taking her husband’s place when he fell. Hers is the story of a colonial woman whose financial circumstances were too dire to permit her to remain home while her husband fought in the Revolutionary War. Molly’s choice was between staying at home cooking and cleaning for others (if she could find such paid work) in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, or going with her husband and cooking and cleaning for him on or near the battlefield. Molly was one of many women who followed the army, performing valuable services that lifted the morale of the soldiers, as well as keeping them clean and fed. History has maligned such women, labeling them camp followers and even prostitutes. But this is unfair: it was better and more respectable for these women to stay with their husbands, rather than staying home.
Kim Hanley’s Molly Pitcher reminds us what life was like during the Revolutionary War for women with limited financial resources. Kim’s Molly is not a small, delicate creature, but a woman who did what she had to do at the time, what she felt had to be done. At the Battle of Monmouth, one day in a life that spanned decades, Molly’s husband falls in battle and Molly takes his place, probably bending down and passing cartridges. A shot passed between her legs, carrying away the lower portion of her skirts and Hanley’s Pitcher quips, “It’s a good thing it didn’t go any higher or it would have taken away something I really valued.” And then Pitcher keeps on working. Ms. Hanley shares this event with her audience, as well as creating an interactive day in Molly’s kitchen using 18th century kitchen implements to mimic articles of war. Ms. Hanley completes the experience with campfire songs and dances in her program.