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Sally Wister: A Girl Of The American Revolution
by [?]

WINSOME SALLY WISTER! What a pretty picture she makes against the sombre background of the Revolutionary times in which she lived,–with her piquant face and merry eyes half hidden under her demure Quaker bonnet, and her snowy kerchief crossed so smoothly over her tempestuous young heart!

To one of the finest old families in Philadelphia Sally belonged. Her father, Daniel Wister, was the only son of John Wister, a prosperous wine merchant, and Sally was born at her grandfather’s city home, which stands on what is now Market Street, Philadelphia, spending her summers at his country house in Germantown, which charming old homestead is still shown as a landmark of the place.

In winter Sally was a pupil in the girls’ school kept by a famous Quaker, Anthony Benezet, where there were gathered the daughters of many “first” families of the vicinity, and it was there that the intimacy began between Sally and her life-long friend Deborah Norris, who too was a Quaker girl. The group of girls with whom Sally and “Debby” Norris were intimate were all between fourteen and sixteen years old, and formed a “Social Circle” which was very exclusive indeed, but to which a few boys were occasionally admitted. The boys, however, seem to have made themselves disliked, perhaps by teasing, after the manner of boys of to-day, for in the summer of 1776 while the girls were all at their summer homes, one of them wrote to Sally, in the quaint old-fashioned way, making use of many capital letters, “I shall be glad when we get together again; us Girls, I mean, for as to the Boys, I fancy we must Give them up. Willingly I shall, nor have I the most distant desire of being with them again. I think we pass our time more agreeably without than with them.” A clear declaration of independence, that–but it was modified later as letters to Sally show, and one feels glad that such a firm stand in an unworthy cause was open to amendment!

At noon on a hot sunny day in 1776, Monday the eighth of July, Sally and Debby Norris were sitting in the cool shade of the big maples in the garden of Debby’s home, which adjoined the State House. For a while they sewed and chatted and teased one another as girls will, then Sally held up a silencing finger, “Shhh!” she whispered. “That is surely a drum and fife.”

Debby, who was listening too, nodded, “I remember now I heard Mr. Hancock tell Mother that the Declaration of Independence was to be proclaimed in public from the State House at noon to-day. Come, perhaps we can hear some of it.”

Sally was already half way across the lawn; Debby followed and they climbed from a wheel-barrow up to the top of a wall looking down at the State House yard, and had a fine view of the whole scene. Only a small-sized crowd of citizens was there, for the most conservative Philadelphians purposely did not go to hear it read, while those members of Congress whom the girls could see, looked anxious and ill at ease. Silently Sally and Debby listened while John Nixon read the mighty phrases of the Declaration and, only half understanding what they heard, they joined in the burst of applause following the last words, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honour.”

Then as the crowd began to disperse, the girls climbed down and went back to the cool garden, ignorant of the fact that in later years they would have no more valued memory than that of the hot noon-day of July 7, 1776, when they saw and heard the Declaration of Independence read.