Revolutionary Mothers

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US History I HH
September 9, 2010

As the saying goes, “a woman’s work is never done,” but today’s women live a far different life than their predecessors. The women of the revolution were courageous and brave-hearted. The obstacles of their time were far more difficult to overcome than those faced by women in this day and age. Whether it was slavery, war, or racial prejudice, these women kept their heads held high and worked to break down these barriers and create change for the future. On top of having to deal with these hardships, the women of the revolution had families to take care of, mouths to feed, houses to clean, and wounds to heal. For many women of the revolution it was all about taking a stand for their rights and being noticed in society. Women like Margaret Corbin and Mary Postill wanted to show society as well as themselves that what they said was valuable and important. Today’s women enjoy so many more rights and privileges due, in large part, to the efforts of the women of the revolution.

The women of the American Revolution were obedient, industrious, and loyal to their husbands. Their natural purpose or function was bearing and nurturing children. From birth, women accepted their destiny as helpmate to their future husbands. Most women during the revolution did not question their role and became the caretakers of their home; they did the cooking, cleaning, polishing, and decorating. They accepted the fact that their political voice was not heard. It was during this time, however, that some of the women began to speak out. They boycotted in the streets, and their first political act was to simply say “no”. These women’s untraditional behavior surprised many, but it was effective almost immediately. By the mid-eighteenth century, women had become the top consumers and purchasers, so their thoughts and opinions did indeed matter.

Margaret Corbin’s behavior during the American Revolution is considered untraditional, as well. Her husband, John Corbin, was a member of the army. She would watch and learn various combat techniques and strategies of the army and soon enough she wanted to join her husband on the battlefield. When her husband had to take the place of a fallen soldier, she stepped in and took her husband’s spot. This was surprising because up until this point, women did not participate in battle. Women cooked and cleaned; they didn’t fight and kill. Today, women are over in Iraq fighting the war on the front lines. Thanks to Margaret Corbin and her successors, women can enter any profession they want to, and have the same responsibilities as their male counterparts. Because of Corbin, the untraditional behavior of people like Margaret Corbin, the stepping stone was laid for thousands and thousands of women following in her footsteps.

Many women during the American Revolution stood by their husband’s side and took the jobs of refilling empty canteens, healing battle wounds, and most importantly, being there for support. But some women wanted to do more in the war than just be there for the injured or their loved ones. They wanted to participate in battle. Soldiers were initially uncertain how to react to these women posing as male soldiers. Often, the women’s reasoning for fighting in battle made the difference between the soldiers’ admiration or disapproval. Soldiers respected those women who wanted to take part because of their devotion to a man; while the soldiers were angered by the women who were in battle because they found war interesting. Women who were discovered masquerading as men were often punished brutally. On the other hand, women who were discovered before gender lines were crossed were often commended, rather than beaten. The women who crossed gender lines were seen as behaving untraditionally, which was not looked at as a good thing during the days of the Revolution.

Women in the revolution were also exposed to harsh treatment such as racial prejudice, slavery,...
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