Back to all films

A Free Woman: The Story of Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman

In a time when women mattered little, and black women not at all, Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman changed not only the course of her life but that of American History. Set against the backdrop of the Revolutionary War, Mumbet, who could neither read nor write, created her own declaration of independence. Ripped from her enslaved parents, she is given as a gift to a haughty and jealous Hannah Ashley, wife of the wealthy and successful Colonial John Ashley. Mumbet becomes privy to the heated discussions of the rebellion, serving her master and the eleven men writing letters of grievance to King George, demanding freedom from British rule. As she serves, she listens as they write the Resolves that would ultimately become a precursor to our Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

We watch as Mumbet grows into a healer, midwife and mother and becomes respected by both the Black and White communities. As her power and stature grow with her community as well as with John Ashley and the men she serves, Hannah Ashley’s jealously culminates in an act of rage aimed at Mumbet’s daughter. Before the red-hot shovel strikes the child, Mumbet takes the blow which burns her to the bone and very nearly kills her. But Mumbet’s will and mother’s heart is stronger than most and she lives to bear the scar, wearing it like a warrior. When the words she has heard in the study become law, “all men are created free and equal,” she takes matters and fate into her own hands, becoming the first enslaved person to use these words in a court of law to free herself from a lifetime of servitude, and set the course for thousands of slaves to be set free, eighty years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

Associated Members

Diane Pearlman, Producer


We are grateful for the generous support of our sponsors:

Massachusetts Cultural Council
Lowel Cultural Council
Cabot Family Charitable Trust
Liberty Mutual Foundation