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Woman's Work is Never Done

For the Cause: Women and War


During both the American Revolution and the Civil War, women held a variety of jobs, all in support of the cause. The term "war hero" usually refers to a man who unselfishly risks his life to fight. Though very few women actually went into battle, they were as heroic as the men who did. This is the frontispeice image from L. P. Brockett's 1867 book entitled Women's Work in the Civil War. It is an engraving by H. L. Stephens with a quote by Barbara Frietchie below it that reads: 'Shoot, if you must, this old gray head, but spare your country's flag,' she said.


Women's Work in the Civil War
During the American Revolution, it was common knowledge that in order for the new nation to survive as a republic, citizens had to practice virtue, and a willingness to give up personal interests for the common good. Citizens had to be patriotic, moralistic, and of course, virtuous. The ideology of virtue gave women's domestic role much more recognized importance than it previously had had. Women took on an important supportive role by boycotting goods and increasing home production. They also became "Deputy Husbands," taking over their husbands' responsibilities while he was away at war. The image to the left, a widely circulated 1780 broadside, describes how women felt about their role in the war effort and the years following independence. Click on the image to enlarge.


This Civil War broadside, written by a Boston woman, pledged to support the United States and refrain from extra expenditures and luxuries in order to help strengthen the armies and bring an end to the war. Not unlike women of the Revolutionary generation, these women were willing to do whatever was needed for the greater good, even if it meant self-sacrifice. Though not shown, this broadside includes space below the pledge for women to sign their names and places of residences. Click on the image to enlarge.


Many women took on a more active role by becoming nurses in the army. A few women became well known for their efforts, but many others remained anonymous. They all served selflessly, even if it meant leaving their families for an extended period of time.

The image at top right is entitled, "Leaving the Hospital Tents for the Battle Field," from Frank Moore's 1866 book Women of the War.

The bottom right image shows a woman writing a letter for an injured soldier, fromWinslow Homer's series of lithographs called Campaign Sketches, published by Louis Prang & Co. in 1863. It is entitled "The Letter for Home."


Leaving the Hospital Tents for the Battle Field

Louis Prang & Co. Lithograph

Kady Brownell
Though it was unusual, some women were brave enough to enlist in the army by disguising themselves as men. Of the women who did enlist, a few openly enlisted as women, gaining recognition for their heroism. The woman in uniform is Kady Brownell, who became known for saving lives on the battlefield. This image comes from Frank Moore's 1866 book Women of the War. The image on the left is an advertisement announcing the lecture of Mrs. F. L. Clatin, a former female cavalry soldier disguised as a man during Civil War. Click on this image to enlarge.


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