Today in History
What Would The World Be Without Women?
what would have been the outcome of the Revolutionary War without the mothers, wives, and sisters of those who fought that war?
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
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
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
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
one of his letters to his wife:
"I think I have some times
you in conversation, that upon examining the biography of illustrious
men, you will generally find some female about them, in the relation
mother, or wife, or sister, to whose instigation a great part of their
merit is to be ascribed." (Former Vice-President/President John
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
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
his state: "I am a very old man, and have read as much as anyone
yet I have never known, and never read of one - no, not one! - who did
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
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
wives and sisters as we have seen from the two Adams cousins above.
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.
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.
example was followed by the wives of other general officers.
There were but two frame-houses in the settlement,
neither had a finished upper story. (Washington) wished to prepare for
his wife a more retired and comfortable apartment. ...She...arrived
the work was commenced.... On the fourth day, when Mrs. Washington came
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
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!
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
We have space for only a few more words. More stories of the heroines
the Revolutionary War are upcoming. Now read about an unnamed woman of
North Carolina. (This was reported to Rev. H. Saye, by two Revolutionary
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.
watching Indians, with a war-whoop attacked.
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
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
till her whole stock was distributed. At last the savages gave way,
pressed by their foes, were driven off the ground.
The victorious soldiers made inquiries as to who had been killed, and
running up, cried, "Where is the woman that gave us the powder?
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
place." "Is she killed? Ah, we were afraid of that!"
voices. "Not when I saw her," answered another soldier.
the Indians ran
off, she was on her knees in prayer at the root of yonder tree."
there, to their great joy, they found the woman safe, and still on her
knees in prayer.
the next article in this series follow this link What Would The World Be Without Women?
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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