Friday, March 12, 2010

Today in 1776: Women Honored for Their Contributions to the American Revolutionary War

Martha Washington by Gilbert Stuart. She accompanied Washington throughout the war, exemplary of many women, whose portraits we of course do not have, who supported the American soldiers in the War for Independence.

Today, March 12, 1776, in Baltimore, Maryland, a public notice appeared in local papers recognizing the sacrifice of women to the cause of the American Revolution: "The necessity of taking all imaginable care of those who may happen to be wounded in the country's cause, urges us to address our humane ladies, to lend us their kind assistance in furnishing us with linen rags and old sheeting for bandages?" On and off the battlefield, women were known to support the revolutionary cause by providing nursing assistance.

But this was only one way in which women helped. From the earliest protests against British taxation, women's assent and labor were critical to the success of the cause of independence. There were also heroines such as Molly Pitcher and others who not only helped the wounded on the battlefield but even took up arms against the British themselves. There were also women who in spite of the war and having to move their families from one free area to another or to live under occupation, tirelessly worked to keep their families together and take care of their children.

Spinning: an act of defiance in the boycott of British manufactured fabric.

The boycotts that unified the colonies against British taxation required women's participation because the women had to make up for the deficit in the consumer products in their homes and work. For instance, before the war, manufactured cloth was inexpensive and in urban areas cloth was usually bought rather than manufactured. Thanks to the boycott, women again turned to spinning as a necessity, and as with Mahatma Gandhi in India a century and a half later, to an act of political protest. At one political gathering on Boston Common, women brought their spinning wheels and worked a full day.

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