About Women in American Revolution

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In our well-developed, better-than-ever society, we are still fighting for women’s rights and equality between genders. Waiting for a police officer or a neurologist to arrive, we are usually surprised when we see a woman approaching. While reading an article about the death toll in the Syrian Civil War, we easily assume all late soldiers were males. Does this approach differ from the one that was two hundred and fifty years ago? The role of women was crucial during the colonial revolt leading to the independence of the United States.

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The need for human force made all people equal and essential to succeed and gain autonomy. Starting with their active participation on the frontier, through the artistic expressions of their feelings, and their comforting presence. The Revolutionary War forced women to change; previously, they were considered weaker than men, and like their mother Eve, dangerously prone to sin. However, during the War, they were the ones with the power to turn our young men, not merely with empty words but also with deeds and truth, into Republicans. From the Revolutionary War to the time of reforms following the Spanish-American War, women served unofficially with the military. This situation changed in the years preceding World War I, when American War leaders finally recognized that military women were not just a poor substitute for men, but a talented reserve of capable and highly motivated individuals. However, even after the Revolution, women were not considered full citizens.

Nevertheless, they were always present in the world of the army. At the end of the American Revolution in 1783, more than 20,000 women provided support, sustenance, or active service for the military. The first woman to officially be a part of America’s armed forces was Deborah Sampson. However, this was only partially true because the Army wouldn’t have easily enlisted her if she was a woman. Deborah needed to become a man; she practiced for months, changing her way of walking, speaking, and acting. On May 20, 1782, posing as a “smock-faced” boy with a handmade uniform that hid her female figure, she joined Washington’s hard-pressed Continental Army. She participated in several battles for eighteen months, but during a battle near Tarrytown, she got injured. While being hospitalized in Philadelphia, her doctor revealed her gender to a commanding officer, who had no idea how to handle the situation. Deborah was sent to Washington’s headquarters with the explanatory letter, where she was advised to give up soldiering. A few years after her discharge from the army at West Point, George Washington invited her to the nation’s capital, where Congress officially recognized her as a Revolutionary War heroine. However, the rejection of Deborah Sampson didn’t discourage other women from helping and being a part of the American Revolution.

Their situation on the frontier was harder and required more endurance than anyone could expect. First of all, very little or even no provision was prepared for them. The lack of food forced the army to provide nourishment only to the essential units. Furthermore, their appearance relied mostly on their husband-soldiers. Madame de Riedesel was a well-known loyalist camp-follower who traveled with her husband during the war. Lastly, they were granted very few concessions, including usage of baggage wagons as a means of transport. Even though women faced many various difficulties on their way to prove their importance on the frontier, they never gave up and became the foundation of the overall success. As George Washington once remarked, without the army’s women, many more men would have deserted. Not everyone was able to actively help at the battlefield, and without help from the outside, soldiers wouldn’t have survived long. Winter was especially challenging for troops stationed in barracks. Albigence Waldo, the surgeon at Valley Forge, described in his diary the winter of 1777. On December 21, he wrote about a universal Thanksgiving dinner in the soldiers’ camp – “Gentlemen, the supper is ready.” “What is your supper, lads?” “Fire Cake and Water, Sir.” During that bleak, harsh winter, the army ran out of food supplies. Finally, several large wagons filled with foodstuffs arrived at Valley Forge; however, there was no one to distribute it. Ten women from the nearby village decided to help; they had braved the elements and poor roads to deliver tons of precious supplies to the beleaguered army. They not only delivered it to the frontier but also helped stem the tide of desertions by cooking, chopping firewood, building shelters, and nursing wounded or ill men back to health. In the villages, the absence of males pushed women to take men’s responsibilities. Wives successfully coped with many new challenges that occurred when their husbands were gone. They managed farms, became politically involved, assembled munitions, and, on occasion, helped to defend their families against Indian raids.

In Burke County, North Carolina, during the defense against Indians, the soldiers’ gunpowder was nearly exhausted. The group was saved by one of the women, who possessed a good supply of the needed powder and decided to distribute it among the soldiers. Carrying the gunpowder in her apron, she went to each man and poured a small quantity into his upturned hat. The soldiers were able to sustain fire long enough to dissuade the Indians from pressing the attack. Women held the army together. Women were the heart of the army. A number of females, some say a hundred, some say more, besieged Thomas Boylston’s shop, demanding the keys to his warehouse, which was a storage of his overpriced coffee. The reaction of one of the women was unpredictable when Thomas refused to distribute the coffee without charges, she seized him by the neck, and tossed him into the cart. They opened the warehouse, hoisted out the coffee themselves, put it into trucks and drove off. With delight, she concluded, a large concourse of men stood amazed, silent spectators of the whole transaction. This situation was described by Abigail Adams in her letter from June 31, 1777, to her husband, showing women’s need to fight for nearly everything. Neither writing nor speaking could be their way to express their feelings.

They weren’t allowed to publish during the American Revolution because it was against the rules. A woman was a private being; by publishing broadsides or essays, she became unfeminine and immoral. Most of the pieces published by females, all under the pseudonym “a woman,” were repressed in the name of patriotism and freedom. The first exception was probably the earliest American novel written in the form of a letter: “The History of Maria Kittle” by Ann Eliza Bleecker. In the letter written on December 15, 1777, to Miss Tenn Eyck, she expressed her devastating grief and loss caused by the death of her daughter. Despite the stamina and strength demonstrated by many American women in surviving the harrowing and often bloody events of the war with Britain, the feminine ideal was different. Women from the middle and upper classes met the requirement to be delicate, modest, and non-assertive. Rebecca Frank described her social life during winter 1778 in a letter to her friend Nancy Harrison Paca, emphasizing her clothing style. Elaborating on the details of hoops and feathers, she enclosed “six gauze handkerchiefs, two small pieces of gauze, and two sets of colored ribbons.” However, in doing this, she flaunted or ignored the fact that women chose to wear homespun fabrics as a patriotic gesture during the Revolution. John Adams outlined his idea of a woman in a letter to his wife on November 4, 1775, comparing her to Mrs. Hancock. Abigail was sometimes “too saucy,” while Dorothy was all he could ask for: “modest, decent… Her behavior is easy and genteel. She avoids talking about politics. In large and mixed companies, she is totally silent- as a lady ought to be.”

However, most of them did not try to stick to the norms. Forming groups such as the Daughters of Liberty, women exerted considerable economic influence by boycotting British goods. They refused to buy tea or woolen goods and spun material for shirts and sheets on their own. Sarah Bache, Benjamin Franklin’s daughter, showed him 2200 military shirts that had been sewn by the women of Philadelphia, as reported by the Marquis de Chastellux. As Abigail Adams once told her husband, “Remember the ladies,” we should keep in mind that women were a fundament of society during the Revolutionary War. Their outstanding commitment at the frontier, willingness to make the lives of others easier, and heart-warming appearance contributed to the United States gaining independence. Even though the circumstances were adverse, women were always ready to help, and their impact is undeniable. However, the question is, how did the revolution influence women? Was the Revolution truly revolutionary, or was it just a regime change?

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About Women in American Revolution. (2019, Oct 30). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/about-women-in-american-revolution/