Betsy Ross was born Elizabeth Griscom on January 1, 1752. She was the eighth of 17 children of Samuel and Rebecca Griscom, who were Quakers.
In 1773, Betsy eloped with John Ross. Both of them were apprentices to the upholsterer William Webster. John was also Episcopalian and because of this, Betsy was excommunicated from the Quakers. However, John died after only two years of marriage.
Around 1776 or 1777, Betsy, who had opened an upholstering business with her first husband, was supposed to have been called upon by George Washington. Some historians place this visit in June 1776 and have Washington accompanied by Betsy's uncle by marriage and Robert Morris. A flag was needed for the new country, and General Washington and the Continental Congress had a basic outline. Betsy, who was experienced in making flags, was said to have recommended a five-point star instead of the six-point star Washington preferred because it was easier to fabricate.
In 1777, Betsy married Joseph Ashburn, and they had two daughters. Ashburn, who was a pirate, was arrested in the West Indies and died in prison in 1782. The next year, Betsy married John Claypoole. They had five daughters.
Betsy and her daughters went on to make upholstery and flags. Between 1810 and 1811, she made garrison flags for New Orleans and the Indian Department. She retired in old age and died on January 30, 1836. She was 84 years old. In 1857, her body was reinterred in the Free Quaker Burying Ground.