Deborah Sampson (originally Samson, but history has inserted the "p") was born in Plympton, Massachusetts. After a childhood as an indentured servant, she worked as a school teacher for a few years.
She achieved notoriety when she was excommunicated from her local Baptist church for taking on the male persona of "Timothy Thayer", getting drunk, and taking another woman to bed. The venturesome Sampson then decided to enter the Continental Army to participate in the American Revolutionary War.
American domestic servant, schoolteacher, and soldier, a woman passing as a man, she assumed a man's identity, and enlisted as "Robert Shurtleff" (also spelled Shirtliff or Shirtlieff) in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment in 1782. A Revolutionary War hero, nicknamed "Molly" because of her beardless features, she fought in numerous skirmishes and received both sword and musket wounds.
Her identity remained a secret until it was discovered by a doctor because of a bout with fever following her second injury, and in 1783 she was honorably discharged from the army.
In 1784 or 1785 she married Benjamin Gannett, a Massachusetts farmer, and was later awarded a small pension by Congress. She published an account of her war experience, The Female Review, in 1797, and in 1802 she began to lecture on her experiences, concluding her highly romanticized speech by dressing in a soldier's uniform and performing the manual of arms.
She was perhaps the first woman to serve in the Independence War, and also tolecture professionally in the United States. Sampson died in Sharon, Massachusetts. In 1838 Congress passed an act providing full military pension to her heirs.