When Americans think of Revolution, they remember the glorious generals, brave patriots, and heroic battles for independence. They see the image of these brave men fighting for freedom, while women are waiting for them at home, doing their chores and sewing together the American flag. This vision of Revolution is traditionally centered on men, but history, on the other hand, has a different story to tell. During the Revolutionary era the life of a woman was very different from what it is today.
In the colonial society, a woman’s life was determined by her marriage.The status of her husband would determine her way of living. 1 That is why it was very important for a girl to learn things like etiquette, dancing and other languages, in order to marry someone from the upper class. Wife had a role of a companion to her husband. She had to be obedient, agreeable, fertile and faithful to him. Women relied entirely on their husbands, because they could not own any property. It was considered that women were simply going from their father’s house to their husband’s.Sons, on the other hand, would get education and learn certain trades, while women were considered to be too weak minded for that.
If woman’s husband died, her property was under her supervision, until her son’s became of age to legally own it. They spent their lives doing household chores or helping with farm work. The upper class women were seen as figures. They had to be charming, elegant, and always follow the etiquette. They did not do as much of house work as lower class women.
They had maids and slaves that did the most of the housekeeping.But even women of the upper class could not vote or hold office. Because of this position in English colonial society, women were stripped of any real appreciation they made during the Revolution. When England really started to heavily tax the American colonies and the Coercive Acts were enforced, people of the Massachusetts Bay colony vigorously participated in non-importation boycotts of the imported goods. Women urged each other to produce “homespun”. They have clamed that “producing their own clothes is a badge of honor and a visible political statement”.These women organized a big movement, and called themselves “spinning bees”.
They substituted tea for the self picked herbs. Many of women proudly called themselves “daughters of liberty”. Other women saw this work as charity for poor, widows, and ailing. When the continental army started the draft, many of women urged their husbands to join the army. To them it was not just a matter of enlistment for a noble cause. It was a matter of “manliness and physical bravery”. Women wanted to see if their husbands were willing to face the danger and risk their lives. Women would love and respect their husbands for that.
A woman from New Jersey said to her husband: “I would rather hear that you were left a corpse on the field than that you had played the part of a coward. ” Women became very lonely when their husbands left for the war. Women had many additional tasks to perform. Household supplies ran short. Woman who was lacking salt in her house came up with idea to use walnut ash as a preservative. Another woman came up with a recipe to turn family soap into a quality soap, which could only be bought. Women shared all of their new ideas and recipes with their neighbors and friends and in the local newspapers.This development unified colonial women and made them work together for a common cause – to survive.
Survival became very hard when there was no food. Women wrote to their husbands to come back home or send them some money for food. Demands of the military made it even more difficult to maintain and protect their household. Every time British or Patriot army came by, they stripped people of any food, livestock, and valuables.
Armies used houses for shelter on the regular bases. Looters broke in and stole anything they found. Those looters were both fleeing people and soldiers of both sides.