Women of the Revolutionary War
19 December 2012
Everyone who has studied the history of the United States of America has heard of Paul Revere, George Washington, and Benedict Arnold, but who has heard of Molly Pitcher, Sybil Luddington, or Eliza Lucas? Was it not Abigail Adams who told her husband John Adams to, "Remember the ladies"? And James Otis, brother of Mercy Otis Warren, another mother, said, "Are not women born as free as men? Would it not be infamous to assert that the ladies are all slaves by nature?" (Roberts 49). These women, and many more, were active in the Revolutionary War; they are considered "mothers of our country." However, not all of them picked up muskets and went into battle. Some chose to fight for America with an arrow or a cannon, others with a pen or a needle (Zitek). However, some of the women that helped were actually just teenage girls. The women that participated in the Revolutionary War contributed to both the Patriot and Loyalist sides, and provided a means of help for many soldiers.
Of course, the revolution began as a serious conflict between the colonies of America and England following the French and Indian War from 1754-1763 (Kamensky 31). England was in debt from the war, so Parliament decided to introduce, and then raise taxes in the colonies to settle the debt (Kamensky 32). The revolution began in 1775, at the Battle of Lexington and Concord; out of two million colonists, one-third were Patriots, one-third were neutral, and one-third were Loyalists (Kamensky 32). King George III employed some of these Loyalists as royal governors, judges, tax collectors, and customs officials (Kamensky 32)). The revolution was fought everywhere in colonial America, which led to many women being involved, seeing as some battles occurred on a farm, or armies raided houses for food and money (Kamensky 34).
When the war began, ten percent of businesses in Boston, Massachusetts were run by women (Zeinert 12). When Boston Harbor was closed, women had to make everything for themselves and their families, such as fabric for clothing, candles, and soap; to encourage these women, public spinning bees were held and participating women and girls were treated as heroines (Zeinert 13). In fact, early on in the war, the short supply of fabric in the colonies led to court suits fought over such things as a missing handkerchief or a burn in someone's blanket (Collins 50). In New England, a general court ordered women, boys, and girls to spin three pounds of thread a week for at least 30 weeks a year (Collins 50).
Women in the 1700s were not encouraged by any means to assist or participate in fighting of any kind, and were expected to behave in a certain way (Zeinert 8). Their lives consisted of marrying young, raising a family, managing households, and, most importantly, obeying their husbands (Zeinert 8). For a woman to never marry made her into an outcast. A quote from Karen Zeinert in her book, Those Remarkable Women of the American Revolution, reads, "Scandalous, outlandish, and totally inappropriate: Any woman in colonial times who stepped out of her acceptable female role and into a traditionally male role, like that of a soldier, could expect to be labeled this way. Some women were bold enough to take it a step further than this character in an 18th-century book by disguising themselves as men" (Zeinert 7). One woman named Eliza Wilkinson actually asked her husband for the right to think for herself (Zeinert 42). Colonial homes operated by a system called "couverture," a system in which husbands owned their wives, where the women had some rights to inheritance of property, but they owned nothing, not even their own jewelry (Roberts 12). Some colonies allowed divorce, unlike England, and this difference between the mother country and her daughter was another factor dividing them and causing disputes (Roberts 12).
The lives of the following women were outside the normal...