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Women Role During The Civil War

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Women played a crucial role in the Civil War. They did not sit around and wait for their husbands to get home. They did not sit around and let the men take over. They took action. Weather the men wanted it to happen or not, the women always found a way around it. We might not have made it through without them. While at the time, women were not known to fight in battles, or to be nurses, or even be spies to get information. They had become known the stay at home, cook, clean, and live for their husbands. This time in history shifted the history books. Women became brave enough to step up and become their full potential.

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Before the civil war, women became used to the same old routine every day. They were so used to staying home all day and doing everything for their husbands. Women became expected to take care of day to day housekeeping, have children, and provide a loving and nurturing environment for their husbands and children. They became expected to have food on the table when the husbands came home from work, although they had a big role still, it had still been something they just naturally had been expected to do and did not have a choice really for what they wanted to do with their lives. It became something that was expected to live how all the other women lived. This upset many women for some of them became more independent and wanted to do something that made them feel more of this way, instead of doing everything for their husbands. Margaret Fuller, a feminist during the period of time described marriage as a form of slavery. She wrote, “that is the very fault of marriage and of present relations between the sexes, that the woman belongs to the man, instead of forming a whole with him.” Social teachings women learned that they should be pious, delicate, submissive, unquestioning, and fragile. The women would work so hard on keeping up with their family and providing and cleaning for them, that they would nearly ruin their own health. Some of the women would even write notes and letters about this subject. They would talk about the endless draining work they became expected to do every day. It commonly got very overlooked as a job for these women. While most of the women did not like this way of life and how they lived. Only a few spoke up and the majority of them kept quiet and did what made their husbands happy. Around 1860, many women made the decision to remain unmarried. This helped out a lot of women so it could be easier to do what they wanted to do instead of living and doing everything for their husbands. The number of employed women had been three times as it had been thirty years before. Eighty-five percent of women that worked happened to not be married.

Women’s rights activists during the civil war became a huge thing during this time. Women had little to no rights and while some people kept quiet and became too scared to speak up, there happened to be many women felt that they should have at least some self-respect, and spoke up. Susan B. Anthony became a very big women’s rights activist. Susan B, born in Adams, Massachusetts on the fifteenth of February, 1820. She traveled around the country trying to solve women’s suffrage. She became very passionate about the quaker belief. This stated that everyone is equal under God’s eyes. This really shaped into becoming who she became and becoming such a strong believer in women’s rights. She also had seven brothers and sisters who became artists for justice and eminicpatation of slaves. Her mother served in the Revolutionary War and served in the Massachusetts government and her father grew up quacker. Her family influenced her greatly and shaped her into who she became. Her father, made her have those beliefs that quacker ways had. This influence of not only her mom and dad but her siblings as well influenced her to be able to fight for what she believed about women and their rights. She also became an abolition activist. An abolition activist is a movemnt for a political push for immediate action emancipation of all slaves and setting an end to racial discrimination and segregation. That got greatly frowned upon by many people because a majority of people believed that women shouldn’t be able to speak in public or give speeches. Anthony became able to give very strong and informational speeches against slavery. In 1848, a group of women held the very first convention in the United States against women’s suffrage. This became the suffrage movement. This convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. Anthony became really good friends with two of the women from this convention and they went on to fight for women for rights for about 50 years. Many of the times these women gave speeches, they risked getting arrested. What really made her successful happened to be some of the qualities she had. Like for example, she happened to be really good at strategizing things. This quality indeed ended up being very important and useful with her giving speeches. When congress had passed the 14th and 15th amendments it gave the right for African Americans to vote. This upset her very much because it said nothing about women voting. They believed that this amendment should have given women the right to vote as well. They started an association called the “National Woman’s Suffrage Association” to push for this right. Not long after this movement, Anthony got arrested for voting. She got fined $100. This incident brought a lot of attention to women’s suffrage and many people had become upset. She spent the rest of her life-giving speeches about women’s suffrage and fighting for the rights of women.

A very big role that many people don’t acknowledge is women being nurses. They saved many lives that wouldn’t have been able to have been saved without them. The reason being for that is that men became very short on nursing staff and weren’t sure what could resolve that problem because, for them, women helping out had not been something they thought would be a valid option. It had not been hard for men to accept, but they had to fill the gaps. Dorothea Dix had actually been chosen as the first superintendent of U.S. Army nurses in June of 1861. Dix wanted the nurses to be not too young or too old and in the age range of thirty-five, to fifty years old. She also wanted them to be not too attractive, to be willing to dress plainly, and to be in good health. Over three thousand nurses served under Dix’s appointments. Some of the women would volunteer without going through Dix’s guidelines. They would be able to do this because of previous volunteering for nurses at hospitals. Not only would serve as nurses, but the women also comforted and fed the patients. Sometimes, men would not be happy or become upset when they saw women entering their domain. Women always had obstacles with men and what they would be allowed to do, but women always worked around it, and found a way through all of the obstacles they faced.

Dortha Dix is a woman that drastically changed the medical field during her lifetime. She helped get nurses for the Union Army during the civil war. Dix, born in 1802 in Hampden, Maine. Very little is known about her childhood, but due to abuse, she moved to Boston to stay with her grandmother. She went to school in Boston and tutored children. But due to her getting ill many times, she had to put a hold on that. During one of her sickness, her doctor suggested that she spent time in Europe. While in Europe, she learned a few things. Like for example, she met with a group of reformers to discuss changing the way mentally ill people are treated and cared for. She happened to be very passionate and learned a lot about this subject so when she went back to the United States she started touring mentally ill hospitals. Dix suggested states and people to start caring more about the less fortunate. She, fortunately, is open to sharing her work and findings with many politicians even though most of them disagreed. Despite them disagreeing, she kept on with her work and kept pushing for it. When the civil war started, Dix completely dedicated herself to the war and helping the union. Dix, a very hardworking woman, and treated both confederate and union soldiers. Her doing this, helped gain a lot of respect from many around her. Dix set very high standards for the nurses but that’s what made them very successful. Many people disagreed strongly with this subject. Many disagreed with the topic but it still worked out and made the nurses very successful. Some women even found ways to be nurses and go around her strict rules because they didn’t make the cuts, but didn’t want to sit there and not be able to help in what their best at. So they did it anyway.

Women also wanted to be able to fight in the War. It became widely accepted that the civil war is a means of war. Men did not approve of women fighting in the war so women found another way to do so. They dressed up as men. They dressed up as men and many of the women made it through without anyone knowing. Legally, they couldn’t fight in the war but it is estimated that over four hundred women dressed up as men to be able to fight. The requirements for the war are pretty simple, you had to hard-headed and be able to put up a fight. The age requirement for men to enter the war happened to be 18. A lot of the men lied about their age so their size is pretty small, didn’t have too deep of a voice, and still had smooth clean faces. With that being said, it made it a lot easier for the women to pass as men due to lying. What the women would do to make it more believable, is they would cut their hair very short and rub dirt all over their faces. Most of the time the women went the whole time without being caught. In some cases, the women would be caught. But what’s interesting is they didn’t make it much of a deal, they would just send the women home and call it a day. In other cases, the women would get injured in the war and they would take them to get care for it and they wouldn’t even realize it is a woman until they started to treat them. What is really striking is that the women wouldn’t complain, they had become so motivated and ready to fight.

A very important woman of this time went by the name of, Loreta Janeta Velazquez. Janeta, born on June 26, 1842. Her hometown is in Cuba. She happened to be sent to New Orleans to go live with her aunt and attend school there. That occurred in 1849. In around 1861 her husband went to war to fight with the cinfederderate. She begged her husband to let her come. After much begging, her husband still refused. That’s when she decided to dress up as a man and go fight with fellow soldiers, including her husband. She changed her name, and it became changed to Harry T. Buford. She fought very hard. In fact, she passed up most men into the position of a Litunient. As a woman. She luckily, became able to locate all her volunteers, therefore, locating her husband in Florida. She soon presented herself to him as a commanding officer, but his reaction did not get recorded. Unfortunately, he died a few days later in a shooting accident. She continued on and traveled up north, becoming an “independent soldier.” She fought a battle and when she started to travel back down to the south, she became named an official member of the detective corps. She became very indecisive had decided she wanted to fight and be on the battlefield. Soon after she decided to continue fighting, she got an injury on her foot. This became a problem because if she sought medical attention, there could have been a chance her true gender could have been revealed. So in the fleets of the moment, she rushed back to her house back in New Orleans. When returning to New Orleans she stayed dressed in her disguise as a man. But some unfortunate events occurred, and she got arrested for being accused of a union spy. Fortunately, she got cleared from charges, but she got fined for impersonating a man. She got soon released but right after that, she headed back to Tennessee. The reason she headed back to Tennessee is that she searched for another regiment to join. She found one to join then she got severely injured by an exploding shell and needed immediate medical attention. The doctor soon discovered her true gender and identity and that became the end of her fighting career.

One big thing that occurred during the civil war is female spies. The exact number of female spies during this era is not known, but it is known that is are you a few hundred spies. Female spies from the sound of it, doesn’t sound too important but they collected many important things including, enemy plans, their troop size, fortifications, and supplies on scraps of paper or even fabric and sewed them blouses or coats and sometimes even rolled then into their hair. To the sound of it, it might sound easy, but it’s more complicated than what meets the eye. A crazy thing that they would do is they would smuggle things and attach them to the frame of their hoop skirts or even hid them in their baskets, such as morphine, ammunition, or even weapons. The reason they would choose women as the spies is that nobody would suspect them to do the dirty work. Often men would let their guard down around the women and get distracted by their beauty so they would not think anything of it. During this era, women had little to no rights and have an expected set of rules to follow. So, unfortunately, this is how some of the women would get caught. They would do unladylike things and that’s when people would start to get suspicious. This did not start till later in the war because, in the beginning, they would never suspect such a thing to be done by women. Due to more people finding out, it became a lot harder to accomplish this goal because when somebody would try to cross enemy lines they would do hard searches on the people on their way in and out. Punishment for this crime often varied. While most of the men spies that got caught would be executed, hung, or imprisoned, there were very few cases of the women that got caught, this happening to them. They were usually just deported to Canada or somewhere else.

A big female spie during this time period is Pauline Cushman. Pauline, born in Harriet Woods, New Orleans. Her family soon moved back to Michigan but she decided she wanted to pursue theoretically performing and relocated herself to New York, at the age of 18. Not long after that, she made her way back to New Orleans to further her career as a performer. It happened to be there that she met her husband. Her husband went by the name, Charles Dickinson. When the Civil War reached its highpoint, Dickison joined the union army as a musician. But he later died from dysentery in 1862. She then returned to her performing career after the tough loss of her husband. She started touring a theatrical performance area in Louisville, Kentucky. But, they soon fired her after that because she then got received as a “Southern Sympathizer”. But then, in 1863 a new opportunity got sprung upon her. She got asked to be a spy for the union. She then went on to become a follower touring the confederate camp in Kentucky and Tennessee. Her image of beauty made the men let down their guard and this made the job much easier for her. After visiting the camp she collected some very useful and valuable information. She managed to find out the battle plans for the confederate army. The people around her started to get suspicious about the situation. Then, she got caught with the battle plans. She got tried in Military court and got unfortunately sentenced to death. Fortunately, she got saved three days before her death date due to the invasion of Union troops in the area. Towards the end of 1865, she began touring the country, giving speeches and lectures about her time spent being a spy. A little bit later on she suffered from bad illnesses and then became addicted to pain medication, unfortunately, found dead not long after.

An underlooked job done by women is being a vivandier during the Civil War. A Vivandier is a french name for a woman attached to military agreements to carry around canteens for the soldiers and help them out. A good example of this act of duty is Marie Tepe. She indeed is a French immigrant that brought nothing but bravery along with her. She is a crucial aspect to this time and did he acknowledged being that because she became one of the two women who got awarded the Kearney Cross for courage under fire. Marie, born in Brest, France but soon migrated over to the United States when she had just turned ten years old. When the civil war broke out, her husband insisted on her staying at home but definitely more drawn on the fact of her following him. That is what she proceeded to do. She enjoyed selling things the army didn’t offer including forms of alcohol and cigars. Marie also enjoyed cooking, cleaning, and housekeeping for the soldiers. Marie ended up leaving her husband later on, and a veteran stated this, “One night some soldiers, among whom was her husband, broke into the vivandiere’s tent and stole $1,600. The men were afterward punished, but the vivandiere decided to quit the regiment. She refused to have anything to do with her husband. . . [She was] requested to continue with the regiment, but her indignation was so great that she left.” She left this torn up but continued her work. She ended up serving in around 13 battles and is remembered as a strong asset to the Civil War.

The Civil War fortunately is a life-changing event in history for women. This is when women could come out and help contribute to our country. Although many not only men but women disagree with women doing more than housekeeping for their husbands. Women could finally have a chance to be who they want to be and fight for what they believe. The women nurses, the stay at home moms, the spies, and even a little job like a vivandier affect the war and helped the United States in many different ways. The Civil War would have mostly fallen apart without the help of strong and courageous women.

07 September 2020

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