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Women And The American Revolution

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Women generally did not fight in the revolution, and the traditional status of Eighteenth Century women meant that they were not publicly able to participate fully in the debates over the revolution. However, in their own sphere, and sometimes out of it, woman participated fully in the revolution in all the ways that their status and custom allowed.

As the public debate over the Townshend Acts grew more virulent, women showed their support for the cause of freedom by engaging in certain "feminine" pursuits. A common practice was to publicly ban English imports, especially tea, from their homes. Creating homespun, that is, the tedious creation of homemade fabric from spinning and weaving their own cloth, was another public way of showing support for the cause of freedom.

During the American Revolution, many women were directly affected by the fighting since their father or brothers or husband or sons were off fighting. This meant that the women often had to take full responsibility for the family farm or business. More and more women became "deputy husbands" and represented the family in legal or commercial transactions. In some instances, as the fighting came close to their lands, women even had to take up arms to defend their person or property when the occasion demanded. Several women in Groton, Massachussetts, put on their husbands' clothing, armed themselves with muskets and pitchforks and defended the Nashua River Bridge. They captured a notorious Tory carrying dispatches in his boots to the British in Boston.

Many women actively participated in the workings of the army. They opened up their homes to the wounded, raised money for and provided food and clothing to the Army. There are even several recorded instances of women serving as spies or soldiers in disguise. Most of the active participants however, were in the form of what was called "camp followers". While some of these were women were prostitutes, many others were wives, daughters and mothers of soldiers who followed the Army because they were unable to support themselves after their men left for war. They served the Continental Army as nurses, cooks, laundresses, and water bearers. These women became the earliest American examples of women who supported the



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