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Documenting a Legacy:
Governor Thomas Sim Lee

Thomas Sim Lee's wife, Mary Digges Lee, was born in 1745, the daughter of Ignatius and Elizabeth Parnham Craycroft Digges, prominent landowners in Prince George's County, Maryland. The Digges were Roman Catholic, and Ignatius consented to the marrriage only after Thomas, an Anglican, wrote a series of heartfelt letters during the summer of 1771 giving his assurence that he would convert and that all their children would be raised Catholic. Mary married Thomas on October 27, 1771. They had seven children who survived to adulthood. 

In the summer of 1780, Mary, now First Lady of Maryland, rallied the support of Maryland's women to provide much needed supplies for the soldiers. She personally collected money and materials for the troops and encouraged other women to contribute to the war effort.  In August, when a desperate plea was made for linen to be used in shirts by Maryland's Extraordinary Regiment, Mrs. Lee drew upon the combined resources of the Maryland women and ordered that 260 be delivered to the troops immediately. Mary received this letter of gratiude from the Council of Maryland:

Click to enlarge
Letter, Council to Mary Digges Lee, August 25, 1780
MSA S1075
Mary Digges Lee (1745-1805)
Attributed to John Wollaston
Oil on canvas, c. 1760
Courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society
MSA SC 1621-594

On September 27th, 1780, Mary wrote to General George Washington to request his input on how the money and materials that she collected could best be utilized. In her letter, she proudly proclaimed that the ladies of Maryland had been able to raise a “considerable sum for the relief of the American army.”  Mindful of the craftspeople and of the economy in her home state, she suggested that the money be used to procure any supplies that could be made in Maryland. Finally, Mrs. Lee graciously offered her further assistance to George Washington in the actual purchasing of the supplies for the army.

On October 11th, Washington replied with gratitude to Mrs. Lee for the “patriotic exertions of the ladies of Maryland in favor of the army.”  He praised Mrs. Lee for her assistance and recognized the generosity of Maryland's women. Also in his letter, the general directed that the money be dedicated to the purchase of shirts and black socks for the troops in the Southern army where the need was the most grave.
Click to enlarge
Mary Digges Lee to George Washington, September 27, 1780.
George Washington to Mary Digges Lee, October 11, 1780.
Library of Congress, George Washington Papers Project

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