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Women in the Civil War

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Women in the Civil War

Women are often forgotten when people speak about the Civil War, but it was women who nursed the sick and dying soldiers. Also, women were the ones who raised funds to help with the war efforts. Thanks to women, soldiers had a home to return to after the fighting or if they were injured.

Who were the women who are often overlooked? What did they accomplish? What were their roles? Let's take a deeper look into these questions and more as we study the women in the Civil War.

Women's Role in the Civil War

While the men went off to war, women were left behind to keep the United and Confederate States of America running. While some women volunteered as nurses, and spies, and even disguised themselves as male soldiers, many women remained at home.

Women kept businesses alive while their husbands were away. They were also the farmers who supplied the armies with food. Many women began to participate in politics but not as politicians. In Virginia when the price of bread increased, women led riots that caused lawmakers to create welfare programs.

Richmond Bread Riots

In April of 1863 in Richmond, Virginia a riot broke out over the cost of bread. Inflation, Union troops cutting Confederate supply lines, and increased taxation caused the price of bread to become unaffordable. Women chanted "Bread or Blood!" as they looted local shops for food and valuables. This led to welfare programs to help the poor.

Women also sewed the soldier's uniforms. They held food drives plus other events to raise funds and gather medicine for the army. Women also sewed flags for the different military units.

Women in the Civil War Fundraiser Add StudySmarterAdd for Women-led fundraiser. Source: Wikimedia Commons

African American Women in the Civil War

If women are the forgotten participants of the Civil War, then Black women are almost erased. They were active throughout the war because they had so much to lose. In the camps of the Union States Colored Troops, Black women made sure the soldiers were fed, had tents, and even a flag. They also helped recruit by encouraging Black men to join the war.

It was a battle in its own right just for women to get to these camps. Even when traveling through the North, they were denied access to public transport. One woman had to jump out of a moving train car in order to avoid being harmed by white people. Black women did more than their share of aiding the Northern cause.

Important Women in the Civil War

The women who chose to aid their country directly did so by going to the soldiers' camps. Some women went because their husbands were in the war, and they wanted to be together. Others decided to become nurses, spies, and even soldiers! Let's take a look at some of the most famous women in the Civil War.

Women Nurses in the Civil War

Before the Civil War the profession of nursing was occupied by men but when the need arose during the war women stepped in. A nurse would help with a soldier's treatment but also make sure that he was comfortable.

Women in the Civil War Nurses StudySmarterNurses. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Clara Barton, Union (1821-1912)

Clara Barton may be the most famous woman from the Civil War. Barton decided that she would take her wagon and treat soldiers on the battlefield. No one approved of this, she just did it because she felt it was right. After realizing soldiers in her care had high recovery rates, Barton was authorized to be a nurse. After the war, she went on to find the Red Cross.

Did You Know. . .

Barton would treat wounded Union soldiers plus captured Confederate soldiers!

Phoebe Pember, Confederate (1823-1913)

Phoebe Pember was a Jewish socialite before the war. In 1862 she became the first woman to be an administrator at Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. Pember was constantly tested by her staff of male nurses who thought she could not fulfill her duties since she was a woman. Pember continued to run the facility and even held a male nurse at gunpoint when he tried to steal whiskey, which was used as medicine at the time. She kept her patients, who were mostly soldiers, in comfort.

Women Spies in the Civil War

Women made excellent spies! Often underestimated because of the misogynistic gender roles of the time, women were able to sneak between borders and deliver important information to generals.

Harriet Tubman, Union (1822-1913)

Women in the Civil War Harriet Tubman StudySmarterHarriet Tubman. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Harriet Tubman is most remembered for her role in the Underground Railroad though she was also a spy! Tubman was paid by the Union then she would sneak into the Confederacy. She would pose as a slave and then pay slaves for information. Due to racist beliefs, white Southerners often underestimated the capabilities of slaves. They would speak about secret military operations right in front of Black people who could then inform the North!

The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad was a network of people who would house escaped slaves on their way to freedom in the North. The guides who led the escaped slaves were called "conductors". No one knew of all the safe houses in America, it was very secretive in order to keep the system from falling apart. It is estimated that between 30,000 and 100,000 slaves escaped through the railroad.

Belle Boyd, Confederate (1844-1900)

Belle Boyd was considered to be very pretty. She would use her charms to convince Union soldiers to spill military secrets that she could report to the Confederacy. In 1862 she was sent to a family-owned hotel where she overheard valuable information. She wasted no time riding to General "Stone Wall" Jackson's camp to report to him. Boyd would continue her spying until she was arrested and imprisoned. Eventually, she was deported to the South.

Women Soldiers in the Civil War

Some women donned men's clothing and joined the army as soldiers. Women were not allowed to be soldiers at the time and if they were caught, they were sent home or to jail for impersonating a man. Historians estimate that at least 1000 women fought in the Civil War and that women soldiers were at every historic Civil War battle.

Sarah Edmund, Union (1841-1898)

Sarah Edmund was a Canadian who fought for the Union. She posed as Frank Tomlinson and joined the Michigan 2nd Regiment. Edmund fought in some battles but also spent a lot of time volunteering in the hospital. She rode as a courier for a while but was severely injured when she fell from her horse. Edmund was even a spy for a while, she pretended to be an Irish peddler as she crossed into enemy territory.

Courier

Someone who delivers messages

Edmund contracted malaria and had to desert the army to seek medical attention. She was afraid that the army doctors would realize that she was a woman. When she recovered, Edmund planned to return to the army, but Frank Tomlinson was marked as a deserter. Edmund was a nurse for the rest of the war. After the war, she was able to get a soldier's pension, and deserting was removed from her record.

Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Confederate (1842 - 1897)

Loreta Janeta Velazquez was a Cuban woman who disguised herself as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford when her husband joined the war. She raised a small voluntary militia and brought it to her husband who died a few days later. Buford then left and joined another battalion of soldiers. She fought in the Battle of Bull Run and Ball's Bluff.

Women in the Civil War Loreta Janeta Velazquez StudySmarterLoreta Janeta Velazquez. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Tired of the soldier life, Velazquez returned to her traditional women's clothing and began to spy for the Confederacy. She would slip through dressed as a woman or as a man. For the Battle of Fort Donelson, Velazquez returned to her Buford disguise to fight. She was injured and it was revealed that she was a woman. Velazquez returned to the spy life after that. After the war she wrote a book about her life called The Woman in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and Travels of Madame Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Otherwise Known as Lieutenant Harry T. Buford, Confederate States Army.

Women's Role in the Civil War

Women were active participants in the Civil War whether that be by fundraising or picking up a gun and becoming a soldier. Women believed in the causes of their countries and wanted to do their part in aiding them. While Clara Barton and Loreta Janeta Velazquez do not represent the everyday woman, all women were affected by the war.

Women in the Civil War - Key takeaways

  • Women were active participants in the Civil War
  • Women were nurses, spies, and soldiers
  • Black women aided the cause by taking care of Black soldiers

Frequently Asked Questions about Women in the Civil War

During the Civil, War women were nurses, spies, soldiers, homemakers, business owners, farmers, and more.

Historians believe that at least 1000 women fought as soldiers in the Civil War disguised as men. 

Women participated in the Civil War as nurses, spies, launderers, and soldiers, they raised funds, feed soldiers, and more. 

Women helped in the Civil War by being nurses, spies, launderers, and soldiers; they raised funds, feed soldiers, and more. 

It is difficult to calculate how many women died in the Civil War. Of the 1000 women we know of who served, we know that they had higher rates of injury and death than their male counterparts.

Final Women in the Civil War Quiz

Question

How instances of female soldiers were documented during the Civil War? 

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Answer

400

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Question

Who was the first African American female soldier in the Civil War? 

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Answer

Cathay Williams

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Question

What was a vivandiere? 

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Answer

A female soldier who fought alongside other soldiers

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Question

Which General disbanded the vivandieres and removed all women from military units? 

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Answer

General Ulysses S. Grant 

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Question

Which female soldier continued to successfully live as a man after the war was over? 

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Answer

Jennie Hodgers

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Question

Who was a legendary vivandiere who supposedly was a color-bearer for her regiment? 

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Answer

Kady Brownell 

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Question

List the reasons disguised themselves as soldiers and went into battle? 

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Answer

  1. Follow loved ones into battle  
  2. Fight for their own patriotic beliefs
  3. To buck traditional gender roles and take advantage of more opportunities offered to males

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Question

Female soldiers' true gender was often discovered at what point? 

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Answer

When they sought medical treatment after being injured 

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Question

Some female soldiers were awarded a sum of money generally reserved for male soldiers. This sum of money was called what? 

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Answer

A veterans pension 

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Question

Which female Civil War soldier fought on both Confederate and Union sides? 

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Answer

Malinda Blalock 

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Question

Around what year was Harriet Tubman born?

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Answer

1840

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When did Harriet Tubman escape slavery?

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Answer

1849

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Around how many slaves did Harriet Tubman free via the Underground Railroad?

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70

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What was the name of the Civil War raid where Harriet Tubman helped to free around 700 slaves?

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Answer

Harpers Ferry Raid

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Why did Harriet Tubman earn the nickname "General Tubman"?

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Answer

She helped recruit supporters for the Harpers Ferry Raid.

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Where was Harriet Tubman born?

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Answer

Maryland

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Where did Harriet Tubman settle after the Civil War?

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Answer

New York

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What was the name of Harriet Tubman's role in the Underground Railroad?

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Answer

conductor

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When did Harriet Tubman die?

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Answer

1913

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What is the name of the charity home Harriet Tubman founded?

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Answer

Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Colored People

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Question

In what century did the Cult of True Womanhood develop?

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Answer

19th

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Among what classes did the Cult of True Womanhood exist?

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Answer

upper class

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What groups of women were excluded from the Cult of True Womanhood?

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Answer

women of color

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According to the Cult of True Womanhood, in what sphere did women belong?

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Answer

private sphere

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Who coined the Cult of True Womanhood?

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Answer

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

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Which of the following was not a virtue of the Cult of True Womanhood?

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Answer

piety

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What forms of print media reinforced the Cult of True Womanhood?

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Answer

women's magazines

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According to Barbara Welter, what was the most feminine virtue of the Cult of True Womanhood?

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submissiveness

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What effect did the Cult of True Womanhood have on the women's movement?

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Answer

It helped propel it as not all women were happy with the values of the Cult of True Womanhood.

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In what era did the "new woman" start to replace the "true woman"?

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Answer

the Progressive Era

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Question

Where was Loreta Janeta Velazquez born?

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Cuba

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When was Loreta Janeta Velazquez born?

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1842

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What is the name of Loreta Janeta Velazquez's memoir?

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Answer

The Woman in Battle

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What war did Loreta Janeta Velazquez experience in her youth?

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Answer

The War of 1812

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In what city did Loreta Janeta Velazquez attend school?

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Answer

Havana

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Why did Loreta Janeta Velazquez's parents cut her off?

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Answer

She eloped with an officer from the Texas army even though they had arranged a marriage for her.

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What was the name of Loreta Janeta Velazquez's male alter ego?

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Answer

Lieutenant Harry T. Buford

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Did Loreta Janeta Velazquez fight for the Union or the Confederacy?

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Answer

the Confederacy

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When did Loreta Janeta Velazquez publish her memoir?

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Answer

1867

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Where did Loreta Janeta Velazquez recruit the regiment she led to Florida?

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Answer

Louisiana

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Question

Who led the Richmond Bread Riot?

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Answer

Mary Jackson and Minerva Meredith 

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Why were the sixty people arrested for the Richmond Bread Riot released early?

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Answer

Government could not afford to feed them

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Who was the administrator of Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, Virginia? 

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Answer

Phoebe Pember

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Who was the Confederate Spy who helped win the Battle of Bull Run?

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Answer

Rose O'Neal Greenhow 

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Question

Which Confederate soldier was really a woman and a spy? 

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Answer

Loreta Janeta Velazquez 

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Question

The United Daughters of the Confederacy raised monuments to who?

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Answer

Confederates 

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Question

Which of these is not a part of the Lost Cause Myth?

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Answer

The war was lost because there were more Union troops

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Question

True/False

Women found political power during the Civil War by letter writing, running for office, and threatening the government 

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Answer

True

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Question

Which of these is not a role women had in the Confederacy?

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Answer

Spies

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Question

True/False

The Lost Cause Myth is still taught in some schools today.

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Answer

True

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