New Jersey officials say they are considering changing Union County's official seal because it does not accurately depict history and could be viewed as insensitive.
The seal depicts the murder of Hannah Caldwell, who historians say was the mother of nine children and the first woman killed in New Jersey during the Revolutionary War. She was shot at her home on June 7, 1780, by a British soldier.
According to Union County Commissioner Chairman Sergio Granados, the imagery of her murder is inaccurate as Caldwell was shot inside her home, while the artist's dramatization shows her with arms raised outside her home.
It is believed to be the only government seal in the U.S. that depicts a murder in progress, according to NJ.com and News 12 New Jersey.
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"While we do not wish to erase history of this important occurrence, the picture on the current seal is not a true depiction of what actually occurred," Granados said in a statement. "In addition, the fact that our seal contains the brutal murder of Hannah Caldwell, could be viewed as insensitive to today's climate, involving the awareness of gun violence or violence against women."
Granados revealed that talks about changing the seal have been ongoing since 2020 and said county officials will solicit help from residents "in the coming weeks if that is the route" taken.
"We believe as a county, there is a much better way we can honor and pay tribute to our rich history and the impact of Hannah Caldwell's tragic death, which increased the resolve of the colonists to continue their fight for independence during the Revolutionary War," Granados added.
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President of the Union Township Historical Society Barbara LaMort has voiced her opposition to the seal redesign. The historical society runs the Caldwell Personage, a museum outfitted inside the home where Caldwell was murdered.
"I have a lot of reasons to not want it to be erased," she said.
LaMort, who used to work as a history teacher before her retirement, said the society is currently organizing a letter-writing campaign to protest the proposed seal redesign and noted that more battles had been fought in New Jersey than any other state.
"I think history should be taught, warts and all," LaMort said. "But ... I don't think the seal is a wart. It shows a heroic woman."
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"She's a great symbol for modern women," La Mort said. "Defending their homes. Defending their children, defending their values. Don't take this away."
LaMort said that while the seal does not depict the exact circumstances of Caldwell's death, it does depict her death, which inspired young men and teenagers to enlist in the New Jersey militia.
Caldwell was the wife of patriot and preacher James Caldwell. Historians widely agree that her death increased the ranks and inspired local militias, which helped turn the British away at the Battle of Springfield two weeks later.
Discussions about redesigns for flags or state historical artifacts have cropped up in other states across the country over the last several years.
Last year, residents of Newburyport demanded the City Council replace the Massachusetts flag and seal, claiming that the imagery is problematic and helps promote "White supremacy culture."