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My past history books and social studies classes provided the basis to my knowledge on America’s past events, like the Revolutionary War. These books, classes, and even historians that I was accustomed to, only told about the men’s part in wars like this, while women were extremely overlooked. In my opinion, the women had just as great of roles as the men did in this era.
As the troubles between the colonists and the British began, colonial women soon learned that they could be of great importance to standing up to the British king. With the Stamp Act in effect and taxes on all sorts of British made goods, the women began to boycott these goods to a great and powerful extent. They sacrificed not buying any more tea, which was a luxury they enjoyed very much and some even went as far as to say “no” to their fiancés because they did not want a stamped marriage license. When the war between the British and colonists actually came, the men went to fight and the women had to keep going with their daily household duties all the while learning how to successfully carry out their husbands’ jobs too.
When these patriotic women heard that their men were suffering without much food and clothing, they went right to work and set up a system in which they raised enough money and supplies to make a huge difference in the war. This all seems hard enough, but most do not truly realize how strong these women were. Not only were they suffering emotionally due to their husbands and sons off fighting with the chance of not coming back, but they were maintaining a household for these loved ones to hopefully return too.
The Patriot women were a huge group of women that were strongly affected by the war. Before the war, they had no power whatsoever. They were basically property to their husbands and they were thought only capable of taking care of household duties. These women had no political or religious say in anything. These women went to great lengths to survive and aid the war. As mentioned earlier, they formed the Ladies Patriotic Guild, which boycotted all British goods. Two women, Esther Deberdt Reed and Sarah Franklin Bache, created the Ladies Association which was the biggest domestic fund-raising campaign for the war. While the patriot women were active in keeping their household alive, British soldiers would come through their towns and destroy their crops, steal everything from their homes, kill their livestock, and even rape the women.
It was so bad, that some women started following the soldiers and they were called camp followers or even nuisances. These women would cook, clean, wash, and nurse the men they were so strongly supporting. By the end of the war, these English women were finally given some credit by the men of their society. They were allowed to be formally educated in schools. They were not looked at as the housewife, but as the republican wife and/or mother. These women had proven themselves as intelligent and independent, capable of many things that they once were thought not capable of. Marriages became more loving and equal, and men actually had a new found respect for the women of their lives.
Native American women also played a key role in the war. Before the war, the Indian women were much more respected than they English women. The Indian women played a powerful role in political and spiritual aspects of the matrilineal tribe. Their opinion mattered to the men of the tribe and the women actually made decisions for her family and tribe. Molly Bryant was an important Indian woman who was married to the British Crowne’s northern superintendent of Indian affairs. Because of this bond between Molly and her husband, she was able to negotiate and keep alliances between the British and her tribe and other tribes of the area.
Nancy Ward, or Nanyehi, was another Cherokee woman who married a white man and because of this was able to make compromises between the whites and Indians. As the war ended, Native American women began to lose their power and respect. The Indians were urged to adapt more and more of the white culture so that they could keep their lands. Christianity started to take over, and the traditional rituals that Indian women were usually involved in, began to diminish. The women started to take on the roles of the English woman who had no political or religious power whatsoever.
The two groups of women that I talked about, in a way, switched positions. Before the war, The Patriot women had no say in anything, and as the war ended, they began to get more and more respect as equals in the community. The Indian women started out as very strong individual leaders of their community and as the war ended, they began to be treated as the white women were, with less and less independence. Regardless of this setback for the Indian women, the Revolutionary War was a turning point for women everywhere. The Revolutionary War showed the unending strength that a woman has and because of this, women everywhere started on their way to gain all of the individual rights they had always deserved.