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Disguising herself as a man in order to fight, Massachusetts native Deborah Sampson (1760-1827) is the only woman known to have received a full pension for serving in the Continental Army fighting for American independence. Two years after an honorable discharge, Sampson married, lived as a farmer’s wife, and delivered lectures about her military experiences. What drove this Revolutionary’s break with tradition? How has our contemporary understanding of gender evolved the narrative about Sampson’s extraordinary life? And how is the history of gender expression in the Revolutionary period inspiring the work of Emilio Sosa, costume designer of American Repertory Theater’s upcoming production of 1776?

In April 2021, A.R.T. and the Museum hosted a discussion with Emilio Sosa (1776 upcoming; The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Tony Award nomination); Alex Myers, a Sampson descendant, transgender advocate, and author of Revolutionary, a fictionalized novel based on Sampson’s story; and Museum Manager of Gallery Interpretation Tyler Putman to explore these questions and more. Sarah Schofield-Mansur, Assistant Director of Special Events and Partnerships at American Repertory Theater, moderated the panel discussion with Myers, Sosa, and Putman. Then visit the Museum’s virtual exhibition, When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776-1807, online to see Sampson’s wedding dress on loan from Historic New England and a recently discovered diary that reveals new details about her life.

About the Panelists

Alex Myers

Photo of Alex Myers

Alex Myers is the author of Revolutionary (Simon & Schuster, 2014), Continental Divide (University of New Orleans Press, 2019), and The Story of Silence (HarperCollins, 2020). Myers came out as transgender in 1995, right before his senior year in high school. Since then, Alex has worked with schools and colleges to educate students, faculty, and administrators about gender identity as a transgender advocate. He has assisted dozens of schools as they redesign facilities, practices, and policies to be more gender inclusive.

Emilio Sosa

Emilio Sosa

Emilio Sosa is the costume designer for American Repertory Theater’s upcoming production of 1776. Sosa has received TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award in 2006 and was named Design Virtuoso by American Theater Magazine in 2003. He has been inspired by historical events, which he incorporates into his design aesthetic. Sosa was a contestant on the seventh season of the “Project Runway,” set in New York, during which he won second place. Since the show ended, he has continued to promote esosa designs, a line he co-created with his brothers. In 2012, Sosa joined the cast of “Project Runway All Stars” Season 2. Sosa was the costume designer for Topdog/Underdog, Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess (Tony nomination), Motown the Musical, and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.

Tyler Putman

Tyler Putman

Tyler Rudd Putman is the Gallery Interpretation Manager at the Museum of the American Revolution. He holds a PhD and MA in American History from the University of Delaware, an MA in American Material Culture from the Winterthur Program, and a BA in Anthropology from Heidelberg College. His background includes work in public archaeology, the antiques trade, historical tailoring, and tall ship sailing. In 2014, he sailed aboard the Charles W. Morgan and across the Atlantic aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer. He first worked for the Museum as a historic trades intern on the First Oval Office Project in 2013.

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When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story

October 2, 2020 - April 25, 2021
When Women Lost the Vote explored the little-known history of the nation’s first women voters and examined the political conflicts that led to their voting rights being stripped away.
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Online Exhibits

With our online exhibits, including When Women Lost the Vote and Cost of Revolution, the Museum continues to uncover and share compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events that sparked America’s ongoing experiment.
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This image shows the book cover of Revolutionary by Alex Myers. The righthand side of the cover is blue, while the left-hand side is red and white striped. There is a female figure in a blue dress and black boots holding a rifle, which is pointed downward, in her left hand. Only the left side of her body is visible as the rest runs off the cover page. She is on the left side of the book cover.


Read an excerpt from Alex Myers's historical fiction novel on Deborah Sampson, a woman who joined the Continental Army at the age of 21 disguised as a man.
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