“Captain Molly”: The First Woman To Receive a Military Pension

A hero of the American Revolution, Margaret Cochran Corbin was the first woman to receive a military pension. In 1772, at age 21, she married John Corbin, who joined the Pennsylvania military three years later. Instead of staying home like most women did, Margaret left with her husband for war. She earned money by cooking and doing laundry for soldiers, also helping to care for the sick and wounded. On Nov. 16, 1776, Corbin dressed as a man and joined her husband in the Battle of Fort Washington on Manhattan Island. There, she helped him load his cannon against the British, and when he was killed, she quickly took over firing the cannon against the British. Dubbed “Captain Molly” by other soldiers, she gained notoriety for her steady aim and sure shot. Eventually, she was hit by enemy fire and severely wounded. Left to support herself alone, Corbin struggled financially and eventually joined the Invalid Regiment at West Point, where she aided the wounded until she was formally discharged in 1783. On July 6, 1779, the Continental Congress awarded her with a lifelong pension. When she died, she was buried at West Point with full military honors.