Mary Young would never have imagined that she would inadvertently become a muse to inspire the poem, which would in turn inspire a nation under duress. Well acquainted with difficulties by her early thirties, Mary had lost her father, and her husband, John Pickersgill. She was left with one small child to care for, and her widowed mother, Rebecca. Rebecca was a remarkable woman for her time, despite the restrictions of coverture and poor education for girls, Rebecca learned a trade and ran a flag making business in Philadelphia. During the Revolutionary War she stitched for the Continental Army and the Pennsylvania Navy, and eventually the First United States Regiment.
Fortunately, Rebecca taught her trade to her child. So rather than having to throw herself on the mercy of relatives, or suffer the degradations of the alms house, Mary not only provided a handsome living for her family, but she also helped many others, and lent her hands to create an enduring symbol of strength and patriotism that still exists today.
In the summer of 1813, while the U. S. was again engaged in war with Britain, Mary was approached by Major George Armistead to make two flags, the largest of which measured 30 feet hoist and 42 feet fly. Six weeks later she was done.
By August of that year the most powerful symbol of our Nation’s endurance, White House, was in ashes. That September, after 2 full days of bombardment, it was Mary’s enormous flag with its 400 plus yards of cloth that, being seen as it flew over Ft McHenry, that gave hope to Francis Scott Key, and inspired the poem “The Defense of Fort Henry” which is now known as the National Anthem: “The Star Spangled Banner”.
Stitching flags may have brought her to the public eye, but Mary devoted her life to giving hope to others. Having experienced hardship, Mary became president of the Impartial Humane Society where she provided aid to Men, Women Children and Families through various measures, including the establishment of homes for the elderly.