Women And The American Revolution

Throughout American history , women have been seen as “the weaker sex” which has lead to oppression and unfair treatment from men, and even after all this years this concept still affects women today all around the world. Prior to the American Revolution women were seen as inferior and unequal to men, but thanks to the Revolutionary rethinking of the rules for society which led to some reconsideration of the relationship between men and women the American Revolutionary War have helped tremendously the progress of women’s rights. During this time, women were widely considered to be inferior to men. And even though this time period marked an important turning point in the development of the lives of American woman, much of the inequality and unfair treatment women faced every day didn’t go away.

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The American Revolution Era was an important step in the development of the Women’s Civil Rights Movement which would not officially begin until the 1850’s. Before this happened around this era , women were widely considered to be inferior to men. This conduct was evident almost everywhere but it was especially clear in the lack of legal rights for married women. Throughout the 18th century law did not recognize wives’ independence in economic, political, or civic matters. Before the American Revolution women had limitations as to what they could do and how much power they could hold, as well as the fact that women weren’t allowed to own property, and naturally they were controlled by the man of the household. They weren’t allowed to have a separate identity from their fathers or husbands. All of these built a mindset that saw women as fragile and therefore men believed that women should only do tasks in household and taking care of children. After the death of her first husband, Dolley Todd Madison, had to fight her deceased spouse’s heirs for control of his estate. And Abigail Adams, an early advocate of women’s rights, could only encourage her husband John, to ‘REMEMBER THE LADIES’ when drawing up a new federal government. She could not participate in the creation of this government, however; this shows how even relevant women really didn’t have much power or rights.

In pre-Revolutionary times, women didn’t have the right to vote and they weren’t allowed to hold a place in office, mainly because they were seen as “apolitical beings”. Most women didn’t get a proper education, and were seen as irrelevant when it came to politics because of this. Due to all of these inequality women suffered multiple other problems, such as divorce and other law related problems. These things didn’t change after the American Revolutionary War ended. It took much more time for women to gain all of these rights, didn’t change until the nineteenth century.

One of the most relevant aspects of the years leading up to the Revolution, was the fact that women showed that they were capable of fighting against prejudice and for their rights. The Revolution increased people’s attention to political matters and made issues of liberty and equality especially important. As Eliza Wilkinson of South Carolina explained in 1783, ‘I won’t have it thought that because we are the weaker sex as to bodily strength we are capable of nothing more than domestic concerns. They won’t even allow us liberty of thought, and that is all I want.’

Female patriots, showed their potential as well as their loyalty to the colonies by boycotting English goods and attacking merchants who didn’t. They also rioted in streets, protesting issues such as the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Tea Act of 1773. These acts also sparked the establishment of the “Daughters of Liberty,” formed in 1765 . The “Daughters of Liberty” main goal was to find ways to fight for liberty from the British, during the American Revolution. For example, since they were boycotting British imported goods, they formed groups of people who produced homemade fabric.

Nevertheless, the role of women and how they were seen began to change as the American Revolution began, and as the war progressed so did views of American Women. Women on the homefront helped America win the War of Independence, in different ways. As men went off to war, many women not only took care of the household, but also took men’s jobs, and ran the economy.

Women played critical roles in the American Revolution. Some historians even consider these women as our “Founding Mothers”.

Previously mentioned Women such as Abigail Adams, influenced politics as did Mercy Otis Warren, wife of Boston Patriot Joseph 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.

The strength and the will of the women around this era was shown in the fact that these women often followed their husbands in the Continental Army. These women were known as camp followers, and they usually were charge of the domestic side of army organization, such as mending clothes, washing, cooking, and providing medical help whenever it was necessary. In some cases women were flung into battle. Such was the case of Molly Pitcher (Mary Ludwig Hays), she is relevant because of her action at the Battle of Monmouth (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. Just as this case there were some other cases of similar women, for example Margaret Corbin whom history recalls her as the first American female to receive a soldier’s lifetime pension after the war. These women are outstanding examples of courage and progression , and they tremendously helped women in america to move one step forward at a time.

Another great example of one of the most influential women at this time was Judith Sargent Murray who was American advocate for women’s rights and she wrote one of the most if not the most systematic expression of a feminist position in this period in 1779 (published until 1790). Her essay, ‘ON THE EQUALITY OF THE SEXES,’ challenged the view that men had greater intellectual capacities than women. Instead she argued that whatever differences existed between the intelligence of men and women were the result of prejudice and discrimination that prevented women from sharing the full range of male privilege and experience. Murray championed the view that the ‘order of nature’ demanded full equality between the sexes, but that male domination corrupted this principle.

Murray’s support for gender equality was largely met by shock and disapproval, like many other of the most radical voices of the Revolutionary Era. Revolutionary and Early National America remained a place of male privilege. Nevertheless, the understanding of the proper relationships among men, women, and the public world underwent significant change in this period. The republican thrust of revolutionary politics required intelligent and self-disciplined citizens to form the core of the new republic. This helped shape a new ideal for wives as ‘republican mothers’ who could instruct their children, sons especially, to be intelligent and reasonable individuals. This heightened significance to a traditional aspect of wives’ duties brought with it a new commitment to female education and helped make husbands and wives more equal within the family.

Even with all of these great women and their will to move forward and gain rights for them the American Revolution did not do much for women, it didn’t result in either a major, progressional, political or legal change for women. This can be seen in the fact that when America declared its independence from the Crown in 1776, women actually lost rights. And after this happened states continued to slowly revoked women’s rights to vote. As certain states placed new constitutions or laws that made women unable to vote, such as in New York (1777) and Massachusetts (1780). Meanwhile in New Jersey in the year 1790, New Jersey passed a law that allowed women to vote, later in 1807 all that equality went away when New Jersey revised the law in 1807 and excluded not only women’s ability to vote, but it also excluded aliens and african american men as well.

Regardless of the fact that there were no major changes for women, many rather minor developments did happen. One of this developments was the way women were seen as. The traditional view on women began to change. Women began to slightly change their point of view on how they educated their families, people expected different things from women, and women began to do things a little bit different, and now one of their missions was to inculcate patriotism to their families, as well as encouraging their husbands to support the government and to vote, and even encourage them to run for office. Other than some traditional ideas changing to a enforce greater equality, none of these had an major impact in history .

After the war of independence concluded, American women and their role in society remained pretty much the same. Women continued to have a rather traditional and domestic role role in society. And even to this day some men still see women as inferior beings; And regardless of this unfair treatment American women continued to challenge their role and status in American society. As what could be interpreted as a way of protest or rebellion women decided to begin writing many kinds of texts such as essays and poems in an effort to change the stereotypical role women had back then.

Mary Wollstonecraft is one of the most remarkable examples of a woman who used her writing as a way to protest against injustices. Mary Wollstonecraft was a renowned british women’s rights activist. She is known for her posture on the inequality that women lived. She is considered as being on of the first feminist philosophers of her time; She is the author of Vindication on the Rights of Woman, which was one of her most important texts, in which she advocates the equality of the sexes. Wollstonecraft’s ideas were seen as revolutionary, and ahead of her time which made her writings rather scandalous during this era.

07 September 2020

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