Emerging Revolutionary War is honored to welcome historian Malanna Henderson to the blog. A biography of Mrs. Henderson is at the bottom of this post.
Historical records are generally written by men about men.
When most of us think about the role women played in the Revolutionary War, Betsy Ross comes to mind. Why did early historians choose to recognize the contributions of Betsy Ross instead of others? We all know the answer to that question. Her contribution was sewing the American flag. Sewing, a traditional “female” occupation, was elevated to heroic heights by the legacy of Ross. Most historians today don’t name Betsy Ross as the designer of the first American flag, but that’s another story.
Women whose contributions didn’t fall neatly into categories that weren’t exclusively defined as “feminine” were intentionally excluded; and yet, without their contributions, big and small during the years that the war ensued, the war could have raged on longer or dare I say, we might be flying the Union Jack instead of the Stars and Stripes.
Heroism has many forms.
On the home front women maintained the farms, took care of livestock and fed, clothed and educated their children while their husbands took up arms against the British. That was how most women supported the war effort. However, as in the Civil War women were camp followers, accompanying their husbands and sons to the battlefield. For these women, the army could supply food and protection since they could no longer support themselves after their men left for war. In the military camps, women nursed the sick and wounded, laundered and mended uniforms and cooked meals. At some time in the war, women were paid for providing these services.
Then there were women who chose to pursue more daring endeavors, like spying or binding their breast, cutting their hair and donning men’s clothing to enlist in the war under an alias.
One in particular, Deborah Sampson answered the call to freedom by enlisting in the in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment, under the alias Robert Shurtliff. Continue reading “A Woman’s Place –Women’s Contribution in the Revolutionary War”