Lydia Darrah


Lydia Barrington was born in Dublin, Ireland, and at the age of 25 she married the family tutor, William Darrah. After a few years of marriage, the two immigrated to Philadelphia, where she gave birth to nine children, four of whom died in infancy.

British soldiers
As Quakers, the Darrahs were pacifists, but their eldest son Charles served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. In 1777, when British troops occupied Philadelphia, Englishmen such as General William Howe took up residence near the Darrah family, and Lydia eavesdropped on the enemy, later relaying the overheard information to her son through coded scraps of paper. That fall, their home was requested for use as a British meeting place. Because Quakers were known to be unsupportive of the war effort, the Darrah were allowed to remain in their home. One night, the family was told to go to bed early, and that they would be awakened to let the soldiers out. Faking sleep, Lydia instead listened at the door, and she quickly learned of British plans to ambush a division of the Continental Army, camped at Whitemarsh and led by George Washington. Lydia did not share the information with her family, but instead received permission from General Howe to travel to Frankford to get flour. She continued on toward the American camp, where she gave word of the impending attack to Colonel Craig. She then made her way back, and when questioned about the incident later, denied any knowledge and was released without punishment. The attempted British attack was unsuccessful.

1778, the British troops left Philadelphia, and Lydia’s young children, who had been sent away earlier to live with relatives, returned home. William passed away in 1783, two years after Lydia’s son Charles was kicked out of the Quaker church. Lydia herself lost her membership in 1783 for her actions, and she soon moved with her children to a new house, where she operated a shoe store until her death three years later.

Key events during the life of Lydia Darrah:

Married William Darrah.
British troops occupied Philadelphia.
  Helped foil British plans for an attack on Washington’s troops.
Lost her membership to the Society of Friends.
Moved into a new house with her children.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Lydia Darrah  in  America First—100 Stories from Our History  by  Lawton B. Evans
The Quaker Woman  in  Story of the Thirteen Colonies  by  H. A. Guerber
Quakeress Patriot  in  Historical Tales, Vol I: American  by  Charles Morris
Lydia Darrah Saves General Washington  in  American History Stories, Volume II  by  Mara L. Pratt

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