Women’s Benefit From the American Revolution, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Introduction

Also known as the U.S. War of Independence, the American Revolution started in 1775. With the help of France, as well as male and female inhabitants of the 13 North American colonies owned by Britain, America won its freedom from Britain. The war formally ended in 1783. Although mainstream politics included men only, commonplace domestic behaviors changed as women started to boycott British products, such as tea and dresses imported from London. This internal movement ignited women’s independence by demonstrating that women could maintain an autonomous political identity.[1] The result of this newfound political identity was that women were now viewed as peers. Men took notice of the active and valuable role of women which would eventually result in the birth of women’s rights. After the war, women began to protest male power and necessitated increased respect, both inside and outside of their homes. The American Revolution resulted in America’s independence from Britain, as well as women’s independence as a whole. For that reason, women benefited from the American Revolution.

Background

Before the Revolution, the role of a woman was restricted to the confines of motherhood. A woman’s worth was defined by procreation and care. In fact, Theodore Roosevelt referred to women who opted out of motherhood as cowards and egoists. He likened a woman’s reluctance to fulfill her duties of motherhood to that of a soldier, who when called to battle, fears to do his duty. [2] After the revolution, women were viewed as pioneers of liberty, and their once prosaic status was exalted to one of respect and honor. It is what happened in between that supports the statement which concedes that women did benefit from the American Revolution.

When America declared war against Britain in a full-fledges fight to gain its independence, men and boys received their call of duty. Women were expected to stay home and tend to the children. However, a majority of women decided to fight for the cause of independence by doing whatever they could to support their husbands and sons. Initially, their fight started small. They would start by boycotting all British products which they were fond of. For instance, they stopped buying British tea and ceased to order fabric and dresses imported from England.[3] Instead, the women started to produce their own goods by manufacturing soap and dresses. Furthermore, the women provided blankets and clothing to the American troops. Based on the effectiveness of their domestic protest (many British shopkeepers went out of business during the Revolution due to lack of business), the women took it one step further. They took an active role in combat and served as valuable informants to American troops. Some women disguised themselves as men, so that they could participate in battle; others served food to British soldiers, listened in on their conversations, and reported the information back to American troops.[4]

Regardless of their roles, women during the Revolution exhibited traits of patriotism. They no longer regarded themselves as defenseless creatures; instead, they took vigorous measures to participate in the revolutionary struggle. The women of the Revolution saw it as an honor and as their duty to be heroines. They relied on their talents and resources to singlehandedly create a mechanism of resistance. Through blatant defiance against British oppression, the women managed to involve communities that were otherwise uninvolved with political movements. This strengthened their cause and increased the appeal of the archaic values of rural life.[5]

Discussion

As stated before, Colonial women had the power to support the Patriot cause through purchasing American-made products, instead of British products. This had a significant impact on the strength of British power in America, and spoke volumes about the women’s support for their country. In addition, women opened their homes into public service by housing American soldiers. Women’s contributions to the Revolution escalated and the idea of womanhood took precedence over motherhood. This is not to say the women neglected their families; but more than ever, they utilized their caregiving qualities to express patriotism. Women-run organizations sprouted in all the colonies with the mission to raise funds to support the Revolution. By 1780, these colonies raised more than $340,000.[6]

In addition to supporting colonial forces from their homes, many women were forced to face the unforgiving realities of war. As battles erupted close to their farmsteads, many women became victims of rape by enemy troops. As a result, many enlisted the help of friends or family, and faced the British head-on. These women used weapons and courage to defend their homes, and themselves. Those who could no longer stay at home to defend their properties enlisted in the Continental Army. Their duties included cooking, nursing, soldiers, and spies. [7] The women of the Continental army ensured that army camps ran smoothly and demonstrated the actuality that war affects everyone, and so everyone should make a sacrifice for its cause. Interestingly, despite the tremendous brave efforts of women to offer physical and emotional support during the war, some were still scorned by their male counterparts.[8] As stated previously, many women could not stay on their homesteads any longer as a result of dilapidated funds. Many of those women enlisted in the Continental army, with the hopes of securing an enlistment bounty. Upon discovery, these women were discharged, fined, and sometimes jailed. Those enlisted female soldiers that served with pride and honor, were given important jobs, such as spies. They would conceal their army identities and transport sensitive information, hidden in their petticoats, to their American comrades.[9]

The involvement of women in the American Revolution changed the American perspective of society. It altered the national identity of America. The nation was no longer a community of sovereign members; it was an integration of the domestic sphere to include the symbolic and political value of women.[10] The conflicting loyalties to home and state began to diminish gradually as women gained more rights and more opportunities to voice their opinions. Women were finally part of the nation. Chief Justice Roger Taney once wrote that although women were once not recognized as individuals, through their own knowledge on how to exploit the uncertainty of their situations to the full, they have made a place for themselves as valuable members of a united nation.[11] This became evident as women were given the right to vote and run for congress.

Conclusion

Colonial women during the American Revolution made significant contributions which led to Colonialists’ victory over the British. Their active involvement during the war laid the foundation for women movements of the future. The women of the Revolution were instrumental in exposing their abilities to their male counterparts. They also planted deep-seeded roots that would benefit American women for years to come. Although many of the changes due to the role of women during the Revolution were not instant; they were certainly powerful enough to ensure longevity. Many organizations which started during or after the Revolution resulted in historical changes for women. For instance, the Republican Motherhood, an organization focused on instilling Republican values into their children, developed into an American way of life. It inspired Americans to rebuild their civilization so that it is in accord with republican principles. Also, the involvement of women in the Revolution inspired large numbers of Americans to question dependence. As a result, many northern states had abolished slavery by the 19th century. But most importantly, after the Revolution, women were regarded as equal, and not subservient, to men.[12] Respect toward women and their abilities and their worth, was evident inside and outside of their homes; and it still is today.

Notes

[1] Baritono, Raffaella. “An ideology of sisterhood?: American women’s movements between nationalism and transnationalism.” Journal of Political Ideologies 13, no. 2 (2008): 181–199.

[2] Freedman, E. B. No Turning Back. The History of Feminism and the Future of Women. New York: Ballantine Books, 2002.

[3] Faragher, John Mack. Out of Many: A History of the American People. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2006.

[4] Robbins, Sarah. “The Future Good and Great of our Land: Republican Mothers, Female Authors, and Domesticated Literacy in Antebellum New England.” New England Quarterly 75, no. 4 (2002): 562-591.

[5] Baritono, Raffaella. “An ideology of sisterhood?: American women’s movements between nationalism and transnationalism.” Journal of Political Ideologies 13, no. 2 (2008): 181–199.

[6] Nash, Gary. The Forgotten Fifth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

[7] Baritono, Raffaella. “An ideology of sisterhood?: American women’s movements between nationalism and transnationalism.” Journal of Political Ideologies 13, no. 2 (2008): 181–199.

[8] Berkin, Carol. Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence. New York: Vintage Books, 2005.

[9] Baritono, Raffaella. “An ideology of sisterhood?: American women’s movements between nationalism and transnationalism.” Journal of Political Ideologies 13, no. 2 (2008): 181–199.

[10] Robbins, Sarah. “The Future Good and Great of our Land: Republican Mothers, Female Authors, and Domesticated Literacy in Antebellum New England.” New England Quarterly 75, no. 4 (2002): 562-591.

[11] Baritono, Raffaella. “An ideology of sisterhood?: American women’s movements between nationalism and transnationalism.” Journal of Political Ideologies 13, no. 2 (2008): 181–199.

[12] Baritono, Raffaella. “An ideology of sisterhood?: American women’s movements between nationalism and transnationalism.” Journal of Political Ideologies 13, no. 2 (2008): 181–199

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