Cavanagh, Kit (1667–1739)

views updated

Cavanagh, Kit (1667–1739)

Irish-born English soldier. Name variations: Christian Davies; Christopher Welsh; Mother Ross. Born Christian Cavanagh in Dublin, Ireland, in 1667; died in 1739 in England; daughter of a prosperous brewer; married Richard Welsh (a servant and soldier); married Hugh Jones (a soldier); married a man named Davies; no children.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, to a prosperous brewer, Kit Cavanagh grew up, writes one historian, favoring "manly Employments, such as handling a rake, flail, pitchfork, and riding horses bareback." When her first husband Richard Welsh was drafted in 1692, she was determined to find him. A year later, under the name of Christopher Welsh, she disguised herself as a man and joined the British army as a dragoon (mounted soldier).

Throughout the next ten years, she served under John Churchill, duke of Marlborough. After fighting the French in Holland, she transferred to her husband's cavalry regiment, the Scots Greys, eventually finding Richard and convincing him to keep her secret. During the War of the Spanish Succession, she distinguished herself on the battlefield while fighting the French on the Continent in the campaigns of 1702 and 1703. She was wounded several times. When Cavanagh suffered a skull fracture in 1706 at the battle of Ramillies, her gender was discovered during an ensuing operation. Though she was discharged, the army allowed her to remain with the dragoons as an officer's cook and to be open about her true sex.

It is said that when her husband was killed in 1709 along with 25,000 others at the battle of Malplaquet, it was Cavanagh who found his body. Deeply distraught, she was consoled by a captain named Ross. Though their relationship is unknown, she was soon nicknamed Mother Ross. Three months later, she married Hugh Jones, a grenadier with the Royal Greys, who was soon killed in battle (1710). In 1712, she retired from the army and opened an inn. Cavanagh was granted a lifetime pension of a shilling a day by Queen Anne and married another soldier, a dissolute fellow named Davies. When she died in Chelsea Hospital in 1739, Kit Cavanagh was given a regular military burial. One year later, an autobiography appeared. Though there is no proof, many believed that it was actually authored by Daniel Defoe.


The Life and Adventures of Mother Ross. Conjectured author: Daniel Defoe. London: Peter Davies, 1928.

Laura York , Riverside, California

About this article

Cavanagh, Kit (1667–1739)

Updated About content Print Article