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What Would The World Be Without Women?

Installment I



And what would have been the outcome of the Revolutionary War without the mothers, wives, and sisters of those who fought that war?  What did their influence have on those involved?  Did they have anything to do with how prepared the men who fought that war were?  What did the men of that era think of their mothers, wives, sisters?  I have chosen to begin this discussion of the women of the Revolutionary War with some excerpts that reveal the opinion of the men of that era in regard to women because, today, women are referred to mainly as "females" or "feminists" and their calling is now denigrated as they fill out forms asking: "Do you work?  What kind of work do you do?"  Not so in days gone by.  (Note: Editing in the following stories is by Dorothy Robbins.  For the source of all quotes see below.)

It has been said that, "The Christian character of the Americans preceding and during the Revolution suggests that" at the root of the character of those of whom we have been speaking can be found in the "home and the church, with education supporting both."

Attitudes are important: what do these words convey to you about the relationship between a man [at age 58] and his wife: "....I grow more domestick as I increase in years.  Adieu my dear, Your affectionate...."  (Samuel Adams, "Father of the American Revolution")

How the influence of women was estimated by, (another man) appears from one of his letters to his wife:

"I think I have some times observed to you in conversation, that upon examining the biography of illustrious men, you will generally find some female about them, in the relation of mother, or wife, or sister, to whose instigation a great part of their merit is to be ascribed."  (Former Vice-President/President John Adams)

This same opinion can be found among the writings of a great many of those who had first-hand knowledge of the affairs of that war.  But not only did they have so marvelous an effect on the men of the Revolutionary War, they themselves played many an important and heroic part therein.

The venerable Major Spalding of Georgia, writes, in reply to an application to him for information respecting the revolutionary women of his state: "I am a very old man, and have read as much as anyone I know, yet I have never known, and never read of one - no, not one! - who did not owe high standing, or a great name, to his mother's blood, or his mother's training.  My friend Randolph said he owed every thing to his mother.  Mr. Jefferson's mother was a Randolph, and he acknowledged that he owed every thing to her rearing.  General Washington, we all know, attributed every thing to his mother."

The upbringing of these men is reflected in their attitudes toward their wives and sisters as we have seen from the two Adams cousins above.  But to get a minute picture of the kind of women we are meeting it is best that we read something about them from one who has made their history come alive from original documents.

Martha Washington: ...passed the winters with her husband. ...Her arrival at camp was an event much anticipated; the plain chariot, with the neat postilions in their scarlet and white liveries, was always welcomed with great joy by the army, and brought a cheering influence, which relieved the general gloom in seasons of disaster and despair.  Her example was followed by the wives of other general officers.

(At Valley Forge) There were but two frame-houses in the settlement, and neither had a finished upper story.  (Washington) wished to prepare for his wife a more retired and comfortable apartment. ...She...arrived before the work was commenced.... On the fourth day, when Mrs. Washington came up to see how we were getting along, we had finished the work, made the shelves, put up the pegs on the wall, built the beauffet, and converted the rough garret into a comfortable apartment.  As she stood looking round, I said, "Madam, we have endeavored to do the best we could; I hope we have suited you."  She replied, smiling, "I am astonished! your work would do honor to an old master, and you are mere lads.  I am not only satisfied, but highly gratified with what you have done for my comfort."  (If you have read anything about Valley Forge, you would realize that only a real heroine could have lived through that most dreadful winter!!)  

We have space for only a few more words.  More stories of the heroines of the Revolutionary War are upcoming.  Now read about an unnamed woman of North Carolina.  (This was reported to Rev. H. Saye, by two Revolutionary officers from that area.)

 Early in the war the inhabitants of Burke County, being in danger of attack by the Indians (the British had incited them to this), it was determined to seek protection in an interior settlement.  A party of soldiers was sent to protect them on their retreat.  The families assembled in a line of march and proceeded, the soldiers marching in a hollow square, with the refugee families in the center.  

Then! watching Indians, with a war-whoop attacked.  The soldiers, however, repulsed them by the cool intrepidity of the back-woods riflemen.  When, all at once there was a cry for powder.  "Our powder is giving out," they exclaimed.

A woman of the party had a good supply.  She spread her apron on the ground, poured her powder into it, and going round from soldier to soldier as they stood behind the trees, poured a quantity into each cap till her whole stock was distributed.  At last the savages gave way, and pressed by their foes, were driven off the ground.

The victorious soldiers made inquiries as to who had been killed, and one running up, cried, "Where is the woman that gave us the powder?  I want to see her!

"Yes! yes, let us see her!  Without her we should have been all lost!"  The soldiers made inquiries and were told: "You are looking in the wrong place."  "Is she killed?  Ah, we were afraid of that!" exclaimed many voices.  "Not when I saw her," answered another soldier.  "When the Indians ran off, she was on her knees in prayer at the root of yonder tree."  And there, to their great joy, they found the woman safe, and still on her knees in prayer.  


For the next article in this series follow this link  What Would The World Be Without Women?  Installment II.


All quotations are from Hall, Verna M., editor, "The Christian History of the American Revolution," Foundation for American Christian Education, Chesapeake, Virginia, pp. 73-84.  (Back to article)

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