Women Amidst War

NPS Primary Theme: The extreme demands of wartime industry and the loss of traditional family breadwinners to military service caused hardship, but also presented opportunities to women for employment, volunteerism, and activism that previously had been unavailable to them. While many of these gains would be temporary, the Civil War nonetheless represents an important step forward in American society’s view of the role of women.

  • NPS Subtheme: With male family members off to war, women were sometimes required to serve the traditionally male roles of protector, manager, negotiator, care-giver, and counselor. As the war progressed, women were increasingly seen (and saw themselves) as the foundation of the respective war efforts—sustainers of the will to fight. On the other hand, recent scholarship suggests that the burdens women, especially in the South, faced such intense hardships, they implored their soldier husbands to desert.

NOTE: Please use the comments section below to chronicle your progress with this theme throughout the remaining weeks of the course. Begin by outlining how your group decided to work with the theme (e.g., assigning one theme to one person or dividing themes up between team members) and then outline in detail, at least once each week, the work that you have done toward crafting your three podcast proposals.


12 Responses to Women Amidst War

  1. Makenzie Moore says:

    This week I’ve have been working on tweaking and putting together my final documents, pulling together photographs and images, as well as other primary and secondary documents. Coming up with succinct but comprehensive one sentence thematic statements has been difficult and I still have a lot of work to do in terms of making them less wordy. But in any case, my working thematic statements are as follows:

    Women’s Rights National Park
    Even as the official women’s rights movement was put on hold during the War, women were able to craft a place for themselves in the public arena and entered into the political discourse by participating in public events such as the sponsoring of a petition for emancipation.

    Stones River
    As evidenced by the story of Frances Clayton at the battle of Stones River, the image of the woman soldier has captured people’s imagination from the time of their discovery despite a lack of evidence in the historical record, raising interesting questions about the role of gender and the responsibilities of women in the radically changing war years.

  2. Makenzie Moore says:

    This week I heard back from the women’s rights national historic park. They suggested the McClintock house which was part of the Underground Railroad as a link to the relationship between women’s rights and the abolition movement at the outset of the war. They also thought that the Chapel at the park could be used to talk about the work Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony did on creating the Women’s Loyal National League and their petition for the end of slavery in 1863. They also named some other parks that could serve as other reference points to connect this theme and topic to the larger scope of the war. Now I’m working on integrating these subjects into my thematic outline.

    For my work with Stones River I’ve mostly been reading up on Frances Clayton, trying to decipher what is known and unknown, and have also been perusing some books on the issue of gender and the Civil War. I’ve also continue to fill in my theme for this outline as I try to pull together some seemingly disparate subjects to become part of one historical conversation on the role of women in the Civil War and in Civil War memory.

  3. Mary C says:

    I have begun outlining for the CLBA podcast. Here is where things stand right now.

    Women Amidst War
    I. Podcast: Missing Soldiers Program: The Untold Story of Clara Barton (CLBA)

    1. Theme Statement: As the war progressed, women were increasingly seen (and saw themselves) as the foundation of the respective war efforts—sustainers of the will to fight.

    2. Abstract (one to two paragraphs that describes and summarizes your proposed episode. Be sure to articulate how it supports the NPS’ goals in Holding the High Ground):

    3. a. Tangible/Intangible/Universal:
    Clara Barton Poem-The Women Who Went to the Field. Read at a reception on November 18, 1892 at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D. C. for the Potomac Relief Corps, a unit of the National Woman’s Relief Corps.

    ambition/ loss/ closure/death/ mourning/

    b. Primary Resource/Document (including letters, quotes, artifacts, and images):
    Clara Barton Poem-The Women Who Went to the Field. Read at a reception on November 18, 1892 at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D. C. for the Potomac Relief Corps, a unit of the National Woman’s Relief Corps.
    The Reports of the Committees of the House of Representatives, 39th Congress, First Session, 1865-1866
    A Resolution providing for Expenses incurred in searching for missing Soldiers of the Army of the United States, and for the further Prosecution of the same. APPROVED, March 10, 1866.
    Letter To Returned Soldiers and Others Office of Correspondence with the Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army. Barton, Clara. Washington, DC, May 30, 1866
    Letter to Soldiers and Friends of Soldiers. Barton, Clara.

    c. Secondary Sources:
    POST-CIVIL WAR WORK IN WASHINGTON, D.C. December 11, 1997.
    Pryor, Elizabeth Brown. Clara Barton: Professional Angel. University of Pennsylvania Press. 1987
    Oates, Stephen B. Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War. Free Press. 1994

    d. Contacts:
    Susan Finta- CLBA

    4. Notes/Misc.:
    1865 returning prisoners to Annapolis, men died, CB track info for families
    CB receives permission from Lincoln to address issue
    no one else does what she does, *unique* supplies- missing soldiers -families not told-
    American Red Cross armed forces services program military liaison to families credit CB for laying foundation
    Andersonville graves-dedication-raised flag. etching for harper’s weekly

    Locating Missing Soldiers after the Civil War
    In Spring 1865, Clara Barton worked with Union soldiers released from Confederate war prisons. She went to Annapolis, MD where the War Department handled prisoner exchanges. Barton found thousands of letters, many unopened, from relatives seeking news of their missing loved ones. Close

    Barton corresponded with the families of survivors and gathered information about dead prisoners of war. Most perished without official record of their fate. There were thousands of unmarked graves. Over half of the Union soldiers killed in battle were unidentified. Barton established an Office of Correspondence with the Friends of the Missing Men of the U.S. Army to cope with the workload.

    Dorence Atwater, a former Union prisoner of war at Andersonville Prison contacted Barton. He had maintained secret records of soldiers who died in camp and were buried in graves marked only by a number. Barton headed the mission that identified and marked the graves of nearly 13,000 soldiers at Andersonville. She led the crusade that established Andersonville National Cemetery.

    While in Andersonville, she lost her job at the Patent Office. With her savings exhausted and no income, she returned to Washington, D.C. and struggled to continue her search for missing soldiers. Barton recruited friends to help. Barton’s accomplishments with this program influenced the development of later programs. In 1866, Congress appropriated $15,000 for Barton to continue her work. From 1865 -1869, Barton, not the War Department, responded to 63,182 information requests and was responsible for having over 22,000 soldiers removed from missing lists. Later, she ensured that American Red Cross continued this work. Today, the Armed Forces Emergency Services program of the American Red Cross provides information to the families of military personnel.

    5. Outline/Script:

  4. Makenzie Moore says:

    This week I was able to get a hold of Lee Werst at Women’s Rights National Park. He has forwarded my information to his staff and I hope to hear back from them sometime early next week. I have been working on my outline for this theme with the hopes that I’ll be able to work in the tangible resources they come up with.

    On Monday I called Gib Backlund at Stones River National Battlefield to talk about women soldiers (or the lack thereof). So, I’m now thinking of taking this topic in a different direction then I had initially anticipated. Instead of focusing on that the story of women soldiers, I want to talk about why women in the army were extremely rare and hard to find records of and how and why their story flourishes even if the historical record is not there. I would like this to lead into a discussion of the limitations placed on ideas of womanhood, even in the highly abnormal atmosphere created in the war, and how many women still found room within these limitations to contribute meaningfully to the war. Hopefully, in the end, I’ll be able to bring the narrative back around to talk about the very real, important, and verifiable ways in which women played a part at Stones River, notably with the sanitation commission and the foundation of a confederate cemetery. I’ve still got some kinks to work out, but I’ve begun putting together a narrative outline

  5. Mary C says:

    I just finished up an informative phone call with Susan at CLBA. She did a wonderful job of explaining the site’s primary interpretation goals per their mandate which is primarily focused on Clara Barton’s life as it pertains to the founding of the American Red Cross. Susan pointed out the often overlooked story of Barton’s work in identifying missing soldiers after the war and providing thousands of families with closure. As much as I like the idea of focusing one of our podcasts on nursing and the medical field, I think Barton’s work with the Missing Soldiers Program is a compelling topic that will intrigue listeners by telling a story they haven’t heard before. It challenges them to look at her in a new light.

  6. Makenzie Moore says:

    This week I got into contact with Gib Backlund at Stones River National Park who expressed some concern about one of our topics. I have made plans to call him early next week in hopes of straightening this out as quickly as possible. I have yet to hear back from Women’s Rights National Park but plan on making a follow up phone call early next week. I have begun to outline and structure the pod casts which will hopefully provide a foundation on which to place the information I receive from the sites.

  7. Mary C says:

    Makenzie and I have divided up the topics in this theme and I will be addressing the contributions of women in the medical field and the professional avenues that were opened up to women through the war effort in connection with the Clara Barton National Historic Site. Makenzie and I will continue to meet up to discuss our progress on this shared theme and to assist one another as necessary.
    I have sent out an email to the Superintendent of the George Washington Memorial Parkway(which is the parent site of CLBA) and the Site Manager in charge of CLBA. I received enthusiastic responses from the Superintendent and the Chief Ranger, but have not yet heard back from the Site Manager. This week I will continue to research this topic and begin to outline my plan for this podcast.

  8. Makenzie Moore says:

    This week I started by checking out a lot of books that dealing with women in the Civil War and searched them for reoccurring themes and locations. I also spent a lot of time looking at particular sites and trying to figure out how they could fit in the narrative of Women amidst the War. The books I looked at included:

    DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook’s They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War, Louisiana State University Press, 2002

    Ella Forbes’ African American Women During the Civil War, Garland Publishing, 1998

    Leslie A. Schwalm’s A Hard Fight For We: Women’s Transition from Slavery to Freedom in South Carolina University of Illinois Press, 1997

    Jane E. Schultz’s Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America, University of North Carolina Press, 2004

    Elizabeth Young’s Disarming the Nation: Women’s Writing and the American Civil War University of Chicago Press, 1999

    Lyde Cullen Sizer’s The Political Work of Northern Women Writers and the Civil War, 1850-1872, The University of North Carolina Press, 2000

    Laura F. Edwards’ Scarlett Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: Southern Women and the Civil War Era, University of Illinois Press, 2000

    Nina Silber’s Gender and the Sectional Conflict, The University of North Carolina Press, 2008

    Philip Van Doren Stern’s Secret Missions of the Civil War: First Hand Accounts by Men and Women who Risked their Lives in Underground Activities for the North and South, Rand McNally& Company, 1960.

    On Monday I met with Mary and together we attempted to figure out how we could tell the most compelling and diverse stories. We collaborated with looking at the significance of certain sites and negotiating the way they could be used. Originally we thought about dedicating a podcast to the hardships faced by, and agency exercised by enslaved women during the war as this topic is often overlooked. However, we had difficulty locating a site that seemed to accurately and meaningfully connect to that idea and ultimately decided to try to incorporate the lives of both free and enslaved African-American women where applicable throughout all of our podcasts.

  9. Makenzie Moore says:

    Looking at Women Amidst the War, Mary and I have narrowed it down to the following sites and topics:

    Clara Barton National Historic Site
    This site will be used to look at the contributions of women in the medical field and the professional avenues that were opened up to women through the war effort.

    Women’s Rights National Park
    With ties to the abolition movement and the underground railroad this site has a long history with the issues leading up to the civil war. This site will be used to explore conceptions of citizenship, the emergence of women as influential members of the political sphere, and the strain put on the complex, evolving, and at times contradictory relationship between women’s rights and civil rights by the war and its consequences.

    Stones River National Battlefield
    During the course of this battle two women disguised as men and serving as soldiers were wounded and subsequently their secret was uncovered. This battlefield will be used to investigate women who engaged in activities that blatantly defied or subverted their gender roles. The experiences and roles of Women who served as soldiers, spies, and smugglers, along with the mythology that surrounds them, will be examined.

  10. Greg Shine says:

    The theme of “Women Amidst War” naturally focuses you on the wartime
    period, so the Bethune House seems more appropriate to the theme of
    Reconstruction. However, if you can make a compelling connection to
    your theme (as you’ve indicated might be possible) then go for it.

    Also, Clara Barton NHS is a great connection. In fact, I’d go so far
    as to say it’s a must-use park.

  11. Pingback: Parks to Illustrate CW150 Themes: A Preliminary List | Interpreting the American Civil War

  12. Makenzie Moore says:

    I began looking at “Women Amidst the War” by reading the corresponding section in the handbook. Central to the authors’ argument, and in keeping with the sentiments of “Holding the High Ground,” is the idea that the story that the dominant narrative is often times misleading and limited in its scope. Traditionally Scarlett O’Hara style southern bells capture the historical imagination and leave out the real work and real problems that real women faced. This is particularly true for enslaved women and poor southern women. They further note that women were limited in the roles they chose to take on by their socioeconomic and racial background. Both of these are valid points, and I think it important that issues of race and economic standing be incorporated in these pod casts. I did find it a bit curious that there were no mentions made to the women who disguised themselves as men, took up arms, and joined their respective sides of the fight. Instead the authors focused on gender appropriate roles, even as those roles were temporarily changing.

    I was able to find some information on these women:


    Hall, Richard. Women on the Civil War Battlefront. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas 2006.

    Blanton, DeAnne and Lauren M. Cook. They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.

    I understand that is important to recognize the women who contributed to the war on the quietest and most over looked levels; the work of a woman holding her family together in the face of violence and uncertainty is both compelling and important. But I guess I’m just wondering why these soldiers were completely left out the handbook. Were they too few in number or are they to unverifiable in the historical record?

    From the reading I moved on to looking at the list of sites that were listed in the handbook. As opposed to my other theme of the military experience, I found that the connection between this theme and the sites was not always as readily apparent. The connection between the military and the battle of Manassas is readily available. The relationship between that battle and the role of women in the war is not quite as clear. Because of this, I was not able to get to as many sites for this theme. I also contacted a friend of mine in who compared the diaries of three different southern women from different backgrounds for her undergraduate thesis in hopes of cribbing her bibliography but I’m still waiting to hear back from her.

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