Megan Bowersox wants the revolution to live on.
The 32-year-old West Milford native works full time in Philadelphia as a gallery director at the Museum of the American Revolution. Her goal: to point out the little-known, or fully misunderstood, heroes of the American Revolution.
“There were people like me, there were people like you, there were everyday people who experienced the revolution just like we are experiencing the world today,” she said. “We can’t all be George Washington, but some people we don’t even know about did great things.”
Bowersox said she became a “big nerd and museum fan” at the age of 7 on a trip to the “Temple of Dendur” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
NJ fireworks:Where to find Independence Day fireworks displays in North Jersey
Since, she has visited museums from Passaic County to Paris, graduated from William Paterson University, worked for a painter in Atlantic City and received her masters from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Ending up at a museum always was the aim, she said. She has worked at the museum since in opened in 2017.
“Learning about our history is one of the best things we can do to understand how we are here today,” she said. “The things that are happening in our world today are not that far from what was happening in the 1770s – this idea of representation and rights and what that means from a new country.”
Bowersox is currently overseeing an exhibit called “Liberty” displaying paintings of the Revolution by modern artist Don Troiani that includes a painting of Margaret Corbin, who operated a cannon at the Battle of Fort Washington in New York and consequently lost the use of her left arm .
At the Corps of Invalids at West Point, she was dubbed “Captain Molly” and became the first woman in America to earn a lifelong pension for military service.
Corbin has long been linked to Molly Pitcher of New Jersey Turnpike Service Area fame. Pitcher, most famously captured in 1854 by artist Dennis Malone Carter, was portrayed as a freedom fighter who joined the Battle of Monmouth cannon-side to supplant her slain husband on the frontlines against invading forces.
Honored with a memorial at Monmouth Battlefield State Park, Pitcher was however only an amalgam of the revolution’s camp followers – thousands of women and children who accompanied soldiers on duty for safety and shelter and to provide services as nurses, cooks and laundresses.
Bowersox often drapes herself in hand-sewn wool and full-leather shoes while carrying a bar of soap or a tea canister around the museum to tell their story.
While Pitcher was a folk hero, there were real women who braved the battlefield. Some were too poor to stay behind. All were brave enough to make the journey.
Among them was Deborah Sampson, who enlisted in 1782 in New York as a man named Robert Shurtliff and participated in the conflict until she fell ill and a doctor discovered her gender.
David Zimmer is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.