Polly Cooper was an Oneida woman who repeatedly helped the soldiers serving in the US military, beginning with the Revolutionary War. US records neither confirm or deny this oral history – but the Oneida people treasure the shawl given Polly Cooper for her selfless service in the face of adversity.
In the fall and winter of 1777/1778, the soldiers at Valley Forge were starving. Oneida Chief Shenandoah (also spelled Skandoah and a number of other ways) arranged for corn to be delivered, and Polly was one of the women who delivered the corn, walking hundreds of miles to do so. In addition, she stayed and nursed the sick men, teaching them about food and nutrition. She showed the troops how to make a white corn soup to supplement their diets. The Oneida’s corn made the difference between life and death for many men.
The legend says Polly would accept nothing for her services, so Martha Washington purchased a black shawl that Polly had admired and gave it to her. That shawl, shown below, is still cherished today by her descendants and the Oneida Nation as well.
But Polly wasn’t done. The government records do confirm that one Polly Cooper cooked for the troops during the War of 1812 as well. Oneida history tells us that this is one and the same person.
You can read more about Polly Cooper here: http://www.oneidaindiannation.com/culture/shako/exhibits/27015199.html