Rice, Holly

The American Civil War, fought from 1861-1865, brought with it a movement of women’s social roles during war time. Prior to this event, most women lived their lives under the ideology known as “The Cult of True Womanhood.” Since men’s work began to move from the house to jobs in factories and offices, the home became a private place where it was believed a true woman could spend her time creating a nurturing environment for their husbands and children. However, with the war at their home front and many of their husbands and brothers off to fight, the women’s social role and the definition of “true womanhood” began to shift.

While men were fighting women acted as a means of support for the soldiers in a variety of ways. Women joined and organized ladies’ aid societies with the goal of providing all the necessary supplies the soldiers would need during war. They cooked meals, planted vegetable gardens, organized food drive, sewed and mended clothing, blankets, and pillow cases, and created fundraising campaigns to give to armies for medical supplies and other any other possible needs.

But there some women who did not merely act as means for resources. Many women, inspired by Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War, worked as unofficial nurses.They would go on the frontlines and care for the injured and sick soldiers. They also created a sanitary service for the army which worked to combat diseases and infections by improving conditions in army camps and hospitals as well as a providing a relief for ailing soldiers. Closer to the action still were those women assigned as official Army Nurses who, under the superintendent Dorothy Dix, were to be responsible, maternal women who would not distract the soldiers. They traveled from camp to camp acting as motherly figures and housekeepers as well as treating the wounded and sick.