Mary Pitcher was the daughter of Gretchen and John George Ludwig. John was a dairy farmer of German descent. She had three brothers. Little else is known about Mary Pitcher because "Pitcher" was not her real last name, nor was it a married name.
Mary Pitcher's real last name was likely Ludwig, because that is what her father's name was. She grew up on the family farm and married William Hays soon after she became the servant of a doctor's family. When her husband entered the Revolutionary War, Mary moved back to her parents' home to be a "camp follower."
She delivered pitchers of water to the fighters daily. The fighters nicknamed her "Mary Pitcher," and some called her "Molly Pitcher." It was her husband's job to load the cannon for the camp. Legend has it that William Hays collapsed, though not fatally. Seeing this happen, Mary jumped in and began loading the cannons herself. After the war, the couple had a son, John L. Hays.
In her lifetime, Mary was mainly unknown for her cannon-loading skills, because most thought the woman who loaded the cannon was named Molly. The truth was revealed in 1856, when her son's obituary indicated that he was son of the Revolutionary War heroine "Molly Pitcher."