Impact of the American Revolution on Women
Women generally did not fight in the revolution, and the traditional status of Eighteenth Century women meant that they were not publicly able to participate fully in the debates over the revolution. However, in their own sphere, and sometimes out of it, woman participated fully in the revolution in all the ways that their status and custom allowed. As the public debate over the Townshend Acts grew more virulent, women showed their support for the cause of freedom by engaging in certain "feminine" pursuits. A common practice was to publicly ban English imports, especially tea, from their homes.
Women played critical roles in the American Revolution and subsequent War for Independence. Historian Cokie Roberts considers these women our Founding Mothers. Women like Abigail Adams, the wife of Massachusetts Congressional Delegate John Adams, influenced politics as did Mercy Otis Warren. It was Abigail Adams who famously and voluminously corresponded with her husband while he was in Philadelphia, reminding him that in the new form of government that was being established he should “remember the ladies” or they too, would foment a revolution of their own. Warren, just as politically astute as Adams, was a prolific writer, not only recording her thoughts about the confluence of events swirling around Boston but also dabbling in playwriting. She was a fierce devotee to the patriot cause, writing in December 1774, four months before the war broke out at Lexington and Concord, “America stands armed with resolution and virtue, but she still recoils at the idea of drawing the sword against the nation from whence she derived her origin.” In 1805 she published History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution. Women often followed their husbands in the Continental Army. These women, known as camp followers, often tended to the domestic side of army organization, washing, cooking, mending clothes, and providing medical help when necessary. Sometimes they were flung into the vortex of battle. Such was the case of Mary Ludwig Hays, better known as Molly Pitcher, who earned fame at the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. Hays first brought soldiers water from a local well to quench their thirst on an extremely hot and humid day and then replaced her wounded husband at his artillery piece, firing at the oncoming British. In a similar vein, Margaret Corbin was severely wounded during the British assault on Fort Washington in November 1776 and left for dead alongside her husband, also an artilleryman, until she was attended by a physician. She lived, though her wounds left her permanently disabled. History recalls her as the first American female to receive a soldier’s lifetime pension after the war.
The American Revolution made men share some of the rights. The revolution became a heavy burden for the empire and elites had to donate lots of money to support British soldiers. Women played an important role in this process. The patriotic spirit was in the air and wives inspired their husbands to support the army (Colley 259). Notably, wives of rich and powerful men were especially active in this process. Apart from that, there were many army followers. Soldiers used to complete all chores on their own. However, during the American Revolution lots of females followed the armies on the both sides. Women did all the chores and men could see how women were equally skillful in many activities (Colley 281). Thus, women proved that they were as enduring, intelligent and strong as men. Of course, women worked as nurses and helped lots of wounded soldiers to survive or endure horrible pain. Furthermore, women also took part in the revolution as spies who managed to provide really valuable information. All these activities made women and their deeds become more ‘visible’. Men understood that their wives and daughters could contribute to development of their society in certain ways. Clearly, females felt the change and tried to obtain more rights and struggle for being equally active in the social life. Nonetheless, after the American Revolution, females’ contribution was quite underestimated. The British elite needed qualified and experienced politicians and military people. Therefore, females were again forced to stick to their households.
In the final analysis, from this moment, rights of women were modified. That is why today, this war is called the war of American independence. According to the “American Revolution history” website, the conflict was between the North American colonies and the British Crown, which was represented by the colonial government. Furthermore, and according to Annette Gordon –Reed, the “American Revolution is a picture of the people who can create the Republic”, which is means that Americans fought for their freedom and independence for eight long years. During this war, women were implicated directly or indirectly.
Colley, Linda. Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009. Print.