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Culper Ring Agent 355 Chapter, NSDAR

Chicago, Illinois

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Education
Our chapter’s educational projects focus on supporting students experiencing hardships such as homelessness, food insecurity, or lack of resources for their classrooms. We also focus on member development and education on topics such as DAR’s wide variety of projects and committees, leadership development, and genealogy skills.
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Historic Preservation
Our chapter’s historic preservation projects include a variety of conservation, genealogy, and Chicago history topics. Several of our members are experts in these areas.
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Patriotism
Our chapter’s patriotic projects include recognizing patriots in our community, honoring Chicago’s living and deceased veterans, and participating in parades celebrating American patriots and independence. We celebrate diversity, equity, and inclusion in our chapter, and recognize that patriotism can take many forms.

Who is Agent 355?

Culper Ring Agent 355 Chapter, NSDAR is named for Culper Spy Ring Agent 355 in honor of her bravery, ingenuity, and selfless devotion to country. She represents all women, past and present, in her love of her country and her willingness to sacrifice on behalf of it.

Agent 355 was the code name of a female member of the Culper Spy Ring during the American Revolution. Her actual identity has yet to be discovered. The single direct reference to Agent 355 is found in a letter from Abraham Woodhull (Samuel Culper Sr.), to General George Washington in 1778. At times referred to as the “hidden daughter of the American Revolution,” she has come to embody the spirit, intelligence, and patriotism of the women of the Revolution. The term “355” came from the code-number for “lady” in the encryption system developed and used by the Culper Ring.

We do not possess widespread knowledge of her activities, though she is thought to have been a member of a prominent Loyalist family and at one time moved in the circles of Major John André and Benedict Arnold. She helped facilitate the arrest of Major André, head of England’s Intelligence Operations in New York. She also played a key role in the gathering of counterintelligence that proved Arnold as a traitor. George Washington himself came to rely upon the important information she supplied and Abraham Woodhull would later write that she could “outwit them all.”

While the exact identity and activities of Agent 355 still elude us some years later, she continues to be cited as an example of a trusted agent to new intelligence service hires. Agent 355 was cited in Representative Carolyn B. Maloney’s (D-N.Y.) July 2013 speech introducing the bill, H.R. 863 to study the potential creation of a National Women’s History Museum. Maloney states that “Many Americans have heard of Nathaniel Hale, an undercover spy and hero during the Revolutionary War. But they should also know about ‘355’ — the code for “lady” in the Culper Ring encryption system — a still-unknown woman who was an undercover agent who supplied Gen. George Washington with critical information on British transgressions in the New York area during that same war.” In their book George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution, historians Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger state that “Though her name cannot be verified, and many details about her life are unclear, her presence and her courage undoubtedly made a difference. She represents all covert agents — those men and women whose true identities are never revealed and whose stories are never told, but who offer their service and their lives on behalf of their country.”

Our members have come to truly love the unique story of this woman and her courage. She is a figure of the American Revolution in which we can, hopefully, see ourselves and our energy and spirit.

Culper Ring Agent 355

Agent 355, as depicted in an 1863 issue of Harper''s Weekly

Photos courtesy of Culper Ring Agent 355 Chapter, NSDAR, members.