WHAT? Women participated in the Revolutionary War?


-SAYS WHO? No One wrote about it. Exactly. But, in spite of this, women did have a role in the war. In reading Paine last week, we had this discussion about excluded groups and someone said women were one of them during the war. They were exlcuded in the political sense, women weren’t politically useful. But they were useful in the camps. Many women were a burden to Washington and other generals because they lived in the camps with their husbands, needed shelter and food. Because rations were barely enough for the soldiers, the camps were stretched pretty thin in having to cover all of the women and children as well.

August 4, 1777 Washington writes,“the multitude of women in particular, especially those who are pregnant, or have children, are a clog upon every movement. The Commander in Chief earnestly recommends it to the officers to use every reasonable method in their power to get rid of all such as are not absolutely necessary.” – Washington wasn’t the only one.

1776 General Andrew Lewis wrote, “Officers of Companies are to return a list of the names and number of women they have, and whether single or married, in order to have them examined.”

If these women were single, unable to perform necessary tasks, misbehaved or ill, they were literally sent away from the camps. [TALK ABOUT EXCLUSION] But the women who stayed played essential roles of the camp life- they were given anywhere from 1/4 to a full ration, and even money for the duties they performed. First and foremost, women were needed because if they weren’t allowed in the camps, their husbands (the soldiers) would either ask for furlough, or actually leave the army to follow their wives and children. The generals realized this and had to make accomidations because they couldn’t afford to lose any men. The wives in the camp did all of the laundry, and charged the soldiers per item. They did the cooking and cleaning- and their payments were decided by the General of the camp.

Another way for women to earn rations and pay was by nursing. The army preferred women nurses, because get this- nursing and taking care of the ill was a task that was a female responsibility. But the more practical and SLIGHTLY less misogynistic reasoning behind women nurses was that this freed more men to fight in the line. The need for nurses actually became so great that they began hiring women from british towns, and didn’t really look into their backgrounds ( Some of these women were later found guilty of espionage- hahahaha I think this is funny). An article on history.org states,

“Nurses’ duties were generally related to keeping the hospital and its patients clean. The “Rules and Directions for the better regulation of the military Hospital of the United States” described nurses’ duties. They must stay clean and sober, empty chamber pots as soon as possible after use, wash new patients, wash the hands and faces of old patients, comb patients’ hair daily, change linen, sweep out the hospital, sprinkle the wards with vinegar (as a disinfectant) three to four times a day, and deliver dead patients’ belongings to the ward master. Nurses were forbidden to be absent without the permission of their supervising physicians, surgeons, or matrons.”

There are however a few cases of women participating as soldiers in the army. Some dressed as male soldiers, some performed as women next to their husbands. These roles were dangerous and though they pushed against traditional gender roles, every woman worked just as hard as the men of the war. We nowadays for the most part give both women and men the credit they deserve for their participation in the Revolutionary War. Although the roles display the Chauvinistic and misogynistic ideals of the time (in practice and writing), it is important to address that though Women may have been an excluded group in Paine’s and other thinkers writings, the War literally could not have been won without them.

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6 Responses to WHAT? Women participated in the Revolutionary War?

  1. Wow!!! Great post and great information. I too wonder why the credit was not given to the women back in the days but I did not know that they were actually soldiers in war. To this day, women do not get the credit they deserve when it comes to the responsibilities they have grown to learn to do. It is always nice to hear more and more about how women have done their part in making not only this country but the world a better place. Thank you for the reading!!!

  2. lgallar1 says:

    I love it! It is true, during wars or anything of that nature they forget to mention the role of women. They forget to say what heroic things women did and the fact that they worked hard not just stay at home and wait for their husbands or fathers to come back. What absolutely disgusts me is the fact that they call certain roles as “women roles.” That really makes me upset because I feel like we do not have roles. Anyone can cook and clean or sew and help the sick; it is not a role it is something you want to do because you want to help. Women can: fight, be clever, are intelligent, shoot a gun, be tuff and be just as strong and brave as men. Many women stood up and fought as well because they had the passion to do what they believed was right and we still do. This is marvelous and I truly enjoyed it.

  3. mernasyawish says:

    Love this post! It got me really thinking, people always refer to certain feminists and feminist groups as “crazy” or “full of crap and need to calm down”, but really, if it wasn’t for these women, us females would not have the same rights and standards as men do. I can’t believe this all started even in the time of the revolutionary war! Makes me super proud to see that women, even back in those days, were taking charge and participating in such battles and not comparing themselves to the oh so “masculine” men! Even though rights for women are completely different and have improved tremendously in our current society, there are still some things that can be improved on. I love when I see women joining the army and making a difference to all women and showing people that we are capable to do anything. Again, amazing post I loved reading it!

  4. nicksalute says:

    Very interesting insights on this post, I really enjoyed reading it. It’s a truly fascinating topic that you present. I was aware that women had played significant roles in later wars, but I had no idea that they participated in the Revolutionary War as well. Its a true shame that they were not recognized and respected for their assistance, but I guess that misogynistic attitude comes with the time period. This topic is especially thought-provoking and makes me wonder if other substantial events throughout history were strongly impacted by women, and simply not recognized. It seems that war generally receives a very male-oriented connotation, but the fact that women were a crucial part of the Revolutionary War completely destroys this viewpoint.
    Great post!

  5. jenny9213 says:

    I must say, I truly enjoyed your post. The thought of all the past generations of women who didn’t and in some cases haven’t to this day received any type of honor for their courageousness is outrageous. I loved how you touched based on the fact that some women weren’t just doing “women roles” but that they were also soldiers, even if they had to be under disguise. I’ve read a few stories on the obstacles they had to face and even worse so the punishments that would be brought upon them if anyone realized they were female. I find it ironic that they thought that women were inessential when in reality, like you mentioned, they were indispensable in the Revolutionary War.

  6. This was really a good blog post. Though I knew that women did fight in early wars, I was unaware to what extent the actually participated in. Even in todays combat zones women are not truly getting the credit the deserve. We have as a nation come such a long way from the ideology of thinking that “a women’s place was at home,” and now they make up the lanscape in both business and politics. Really good job.

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