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The Role Of Women In The American Revolutionary War

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Introduction

The American Revolutionary War was a major turning point for the soon to be known United States of America. The 13 colonies in America had a huge deficit of men compared to the vast amount of soldiers the British could send over for the great war. One misconception about the war is that the males were the only people that fought in the war; however, women had a massive role in this conflict as well. During the American Revolution, Women from the Patriot side of the battle played a key role in the war by acting as a call to political action for other women, serving as Nurses, and taking on the day to day duties previously handled by men.

Reed’s Movement

Ester Reed was a revolutionary woman that helped with the war, she wrote the “Sentiments of an American Woman”. This was written by Reed in order to inspire other females to join the revolution. Reed’s movement summoned women to fulfill the promises they made for the war, meaning that women were patriotic and born for liberty, so then people would dismiss the idea of women not being patriotic or political beings. Dozens of women responded to Reed and formed an organization called the Ladies Association of Philadelphia, the organization it is a group of upper-class females who went door to door raising money for Washington’s Continental Army. Her actions can be seen in her work, “The sentiments of an American Women,” where she writes ” The time is arrived to display the same sentiments which animated us at the beginning of the Revolution, when we renounced the use of teas, however agreeable to our taste, rather than receive them from our persecutors; when we made it appear to them that we placed former necessaries in the rank of superfluities, when our liberty was interested; when our republican and laborious hands spun the flax, prepared the linen intended for the use of our soldiers; when exiles and fugitives we supported with courage all the evils which are concomitants of war.” This excerpt is vital in understanding the intensity of Reed’s call to action for other Revolutionary-era women to step forward and be active in the fight for independence. Her writing illustrates the past sacrifices women have made in the war for independence and reminds women that they are capable of assisting their men who are currently fighting on the battlefield. Some of these sacrifices include actively participating in the boycott against British tea and manufacturing garments for soldiers on the battlefield, both of which were crucial to the war effort.

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Nurses

Some women would serve as nurses during the Revolutionary War because when the war started a good portion of them were camp followers who could not sustain themselves so they followed their husbands to the camp and in return were provided with a place to stay and protection as well. In the war camps, male surgeons performed most of the skilled medical work while the female nurses largely did custodial work which included feeding and bathing patients, cleaning hospital wards, emptying chamber pots, and sometimes cooking. These women also devised inventions while working as nurses, their inventions were made to accommodate the patients, some of the inventions included go-chairs (wheelchairs), food-warmer, and a hot-water bottle. A lot of women did not take the jobs as nurses because the mortality rates were very high at the time at the hospital for the sick people plus the nurses themselves.

Men’s Duties

Women would also take on the day to day duties previously handled by men. Their duties included maintaining farms and the household. For example, when the men left for war women would deal with the inflation and shortages that came with the wartime economy. This was a drastic change because women were not usually taking care of the household finances before the war. In the poem, “A New Touch on the Times,” by a Daughter of Liberty named Molly Gutridge, illustrates the hardships women had to endure when the men left for war. She states “… For they are gone the ocean wide, Which for us now they must provide… We must do as well as we can, What could women do without man…” This shows her melancholy mentality on life without the assistance of men in the colonies. Gutridge goes on to state “It’s hard and cruel times to live, Takes thirty dollars to buy a sieve…” With this she is referencing the economic turmoil and inflation caused by the war which led women to elevate themselves as the interim head of the household. This is significant because due to the absence of men and wartime economic turmoil, women were more or less forced to take upon themselves the duties of men in order to survive and maintain their household and communities.

Conclusion

As the evidence from multiple primary sources has displayed Patriot women were essential to the outcome of the American Revolution by acting as a call to political action for other women, serving as Nurses to tend to the wounded, and taking on the day to day duties previously handled by men.

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