Revolutionary Mothers by Carol Berkin: Women During American Revolutionary War

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Boycotting
  • Taking On Men's Jobs
  • Cooks, Seamstresses, Washerwomen, and Nurses
  • Joining the Army
  • Conclusion


The revolt against England from the American colonies was a brawl for independence. Women’s actions are disregarded and not seen as impactful enough by the men during the revolution as mentioned by Revolutionary Mothers author, Carol Berkin. The battle showed a congregation of colonial America and furthermore, the gathering of thousands of Americans. Berkin portrays many circumstances that show just how much women contributed to the conflict. Women essentially led the way in the American Revolution by taking on chores usually assigned to men, working female jobs needed in the war and changing the perspective of society about women.

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The causes of the American Revolution stem from a variety of problems. The most important reason is the levy on commodities. Boycotting broke out as there was disagreement with these levies. Early protestors consisted of primarily women and they were also the consumers on these items, the boycotts were effective. (Berkin 14). If the men had been the main group protesting, it would not have been as impactful.

Taking On Men’s Jobs

Women were dedicated by giving up marriage through rejecting pay of a British toll, in fact, “in New York City a group of brides-to-be said no to their fiancés, putting a public notice in the local newspaper that they would not marry men who applied for a stamped marriage license” (Berkin 14). Women even then were aware of the injustices they faced due to their gender. Husbands and other male household members were often off fighting the war while the revolution took place. Women started taking chores, adding to their own pull as all the men were off fighting. The head of the households were now the wives. Besides the normal responsibilities expected of them before the war, they were now depended on to do the jobs normally performed by the husband. The jobs they took on included caring for children and working in shops, performing manual labor typically not expected of them because they were seen as ‘manly’ jobs (Berkin 31). Taking on men’s jobs while they were away from their home were one of the reasons the Americans won the war. The support of the women kept balance in the household and in the war effort. The hard work back performed by women made the production of goods a reality. Without them, goods needed by the men fighting would have never existed. Ultimately, one of the largest contributions to the American success was the versatility and dedication to the household and workplace by women.

Cooks, Seamstresses, Washerwomen, and Nurses

The continental army required a variety of different jobs during war time. Berkin references the list of different jobs as, “cooks, seamstresses, washerwomen, and nurses” (Berkin 58). Women were most experienced in these types of jobs so were considered to be very useful for them. These were considered to be women’s jobs, so men never really had the chance to learn these domestic responsibilities. “Men [were] accustomed to their mothers, sisters, or wives doing the laundry” and they “balked at performing this traditionally female chore” (Berkin 56). Sicknesses and toxins were dispersing from troop to troop. At the realization of it, the military was forced to get more nurses (Berkin 58). In the need of more nurses, it gave women more opportunities to help out in the revolution. Although women were not yet seen as equal to men, this opportunity let society know that men were not the only gender capable of contributing to the war. Camp followers were of most importance to the military and revolution as these contributions were carried out by women.

Joining the Army

Women were thought to support the men as men’s responsibility was to protect the women, because in society, women and men were not seen on an even field. 1700s America was not exactly a time where women joining combat was seen as acceptable. Going against society and the roles expected of them, some females took it upon themselves to join the army to contribute to the war while others joined to stay close their significant other. Some women would go as far as dressing up like men just join the army and stay close to their husband. When some of the women were caught trying to join, they would be punished, but some would also be undiscovered and make it to the military. Yet, payments and appreciation soon accompanied these women who made it through the recruiting process and through the war. (Berkin 60).


Typically, the American Revolution is only expressed through one viewpoint and studied throughout the world. White men were often the most knowledgeable people during the 1700s. Consequently, they wrote most documents, essays, and biographies, etc. Men were seen as superior to women, so achievements were usually recorded of men rather than women. Textbook creators are accustomed to the one-sided viewpoints as they do not tend to care for the other side and there is not much information on other viewpoints anyways.

Everyone in this war, male or female, were damaged or grew in some way. Revolutionary Mothers portrays the difficulties and injustices women faced during the war. Depicting the conflict from all angles, the book changes the typical way of viewing the revolution, like most of us are taught. Accepted history comes with a male bias which is a common perspective in history. Women deserve the praise that men received for their contributions to the war, through all means.

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