Colonel John Ashley of Sheffield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts, acquired Mumbet and her sister, Lizzy, from their owner, a Dutchman named Pieter Hogeboom, upon his marriage to Hogeboom's daughter, Annetje (Hannah).
The event, according to folklore, which prompted Mumbet to sue for her freedom occurred when the mistress of the house, Mrs. Ashley, attempted to strike Mumbet's sister, Lizzy, with a heated kitchen shovel in the Ashley House. Mumbet blocked the blow, but her arm was injured and she never regained its full use.
According to novelist Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Mumbet was prompted to seek freedom after hearing the Declaration of Independence spoken, and according to historian Arthur Zilversmit the people of Berkshire County then adopted Mumbet's cause to test the constitutionality of slavery following the passage of the new state constitution. Mumbet was one of the first slaves to be set free in Massachusetts and in the newly formed United States of America. She is with out a doubt the first black woman to be set free due in large part to her own determination and character. This web site is the official site for Elizabeth 'Mumbet' Freeman.