Women in War

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Women at War In the years before the Civil War, the lives of American women were shaped by a set of ideals that historians call “the Cult of True Womanhood.” As men’s work moved away from the home and into shops, offices and factories, the household became a new kind of place to private, feminized domestic sphere. “True women” devoted their lives to creating a clean, comfortable, nurturing home for their husbands and children. During the Civil War, American women turned their attention to the world outside the home. Thousands of women in the North and South joined volunteer brigades and signed up to work as nurses. It was the first time in American history that women played a significant role in a war effort. By the end of the war,…show more content…
It also worked to provide relief to sick and wounded soldiers. By war’s end, the Sanitary Commission had provided almost $15 million in supplies--the vast majority of which had been collected by women--to the Union Army. Nearly 20,000 women worked more directly for the Union war effort. Working-class white women and free and enslaved African-American women worked as laundresses, cooks and “matrons,” and some 3,000 middle-class white women worked as nurses. The activist Dorothea Dix, the superintendent of Army nurses, put out a call for responsible, maternal volunteers who would not distract the troops or behave in unseemly or unfeminine ways: Dix insisted that her nurses be “past 30 years of age, healthy, plain almost to repulsion in dress and devoid of personal attractions.” (One of the most famous of these Union nurses was the writer Louisa May Alcott.) Army nurses traveled from hospital to hospital, providing “humane and efficient care for wounded, sick and dying soldiers.” They also acted as mothers and housekeepers--“havens in a heartless world”--for the soldiers under their care. Women of the Confederacy White women in the South threw themselves into the war effort with the same zeal as their Northern counterparts. The Confederacy had less money and fewer resources than did the Union, however, so they did much of their work on their own or through local auxiliaries and relief societies. They, too, cooked and sewed for their boys. They

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