Women’s Roles in the Revolution
I. Women’s Roles in the Revolution
A. Family Enterprises
1. Women took over
2. Succeeded Despite
b. British Occupancy
c. absence of important supplies
3. gave women self-confidence
4. proved that women could make a living by themselves
B. Army Camps
1. Women came to be with soldiers
a. were fed by military
b. were cared for by military
2. The women:
d. served as nurses
e. were not treated specially
1. marched with men
2. slept in the snow
C. Women Soldiers, “Molly Pitchers”
1. reloaded muskets
2. carried pitchers of water
a. when men fell in battle, women took over the guns
b. played an important role
3. Marly Ludwig Hays McCauley
a. original “Molly Pitcher”
b. fought in the Battle of Manmouth, 1778
D. Women Spies
1. Women act as spies
a. Culper Ring
1. organized spy ring
2. Long Island
3. consequences if captured
b. many organized spy rings
2. Secret messengers
a. relied on helpless stereotypes
b. young girls
1. could slip through lines easily
2. Enemy never suspected them
3. carried orders and information
1. listened to what British said
a. while serving food/drink
b. officers spoke freely
1. thought women were not
2. they were wrong
2. Lydia Darragh
a. of Philidelphia
b. carried important information
1. to General Washington
2. at Valley Forge
E. After the war
1. Women continue to be interested in politics
2. Spoke of themselves as Republican Mothers
3. strengthening of a nation
a. Marcy Otis Warren
b. Abigail Adams
c. John Adams and Benjamin Rush
d. position of women
II. Abigail Adams
III. The Declaration of Sentiments
A. Elizabeth Cady Stanton
B. Lucretia Mott
C. Seneca Falls Convention
D. 1920: women recieve full citizenship
When people think of the Revolutionary War, mosth think of George
Washington leading his men into battle, Minutemen fighting, or John Adams,
Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock signing the Declaration of Independence.
Event hough all of these things did happen, and were very important to the war
and to our nation, they were not all that happened. But, the people that are
thought of all seem to be men.
Often, the woment of the Revolution are forgotten, even though they
played an important part in the forming of the United States.1 Women like
Abigail Adams, Mary Hays and Lydia Darragh all helped the rebellion against
Britain. From seamstresses to spies, women helped as much as the men. those
women should never, through all history and future, be forgotten.
Women play important Roles
Women, as said before, took on many roles, from seamstress to spy, and
everthing imbetween. When husbands, fathers, and brothers went off to fight,
family enterprises, such as farms, shops and companies, were left without the
owners and executives that were regualarly needed. This left the women of the
family in charge. Almost all businesses were left to the women, for ver few men
who were qualified or old enough to run them were not fighting.
The women, much to other’s suprise, and probably their own, succeeded.
The businesses thrived, despite of terrible inflation, dense British occupancy,
and the absence of important supplies that were badly needed. Though all of
thsi, the women’s self confidence increased drastically. With this new
confidence, the women proved that they could make a living by themselves,
without the aid of men.
Poorer women who didn’t have a source of income without thier husbands,
padked up their belongings and followed their husbands to the military camps.
When they got there, the government would
2 feed them, along with their children and other relatives. When
sickness or disease hit on th of women, they would be cared for jsuta s the
soldiers would have been. Even when they were healthy, they were taken care of.
As more and more women cam to the camps, the camps grew into large, bustling
The women, however, were not given these luxuries for free. In return
for the food, care, and medical service, they cooked meals for themselves and
soldiers, cleaned the camp, sewed uniforms for thir husbands and other men,
washed these uniforms and other clothing, and served as nurses for hte wounded.
Even though in other places and towns mowmen were treated differently than me,
in the camps the two were equal, both to each other and to the soldiers. For
instance, they marched with the men whern moving to a different site, and even
slept int eh same snowy conditions as the men at Valley Forge.
Many women cam to teh camps to join male relatives, but some actually
joined them on the front lines of war. these women were called “Molly Pitchers.”
They woiuld stand by teh fighting soldiers and reload musket to save
desperately needed time. ro, they would carry pitchers of water to the men so
that they could refresh themselves.
Molly Pitchers also helped the soldiers in another way. When they were
carrying their pitchers and they saw a man fall with injury, they would set down
teh pitcher and run to him. They would take over the gun that he was using, and
take his place in battle. This helped the American immensely, and made the
women ever more important to the rebellion.
When the women wer called Molly Pitchers, there was mroe meaning than
jsut the “pitcher.” Mary Ludwig Hay McCauley was the person from whom teh name
was adapted from. She was a twenty-five year old, tobacco chewing, hardworking
woman3 who was one of the first pitcher-carrying women. The men would yell, “
Here comes Molly and her Pitcher!” Therefore, she became known as Molly Pitcher.
Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley’s moment of glory took place on June twenty-
eighth, seventeen seventy-eight, in Manmouth (Now Freehold) New Jersey.4 The
British General Sir Harry Clinton, who was movng his troops from Philadelphia to
New york, had run into an American Force lead by General Charles
3 Lee. Among them was John Casper Hays, Mary’s husband. Mary worked at
her pitcher throught the entire battle, bringing cool water to the thirsty
troops. It is the battle that she is most noted for, and for which she received
a military medals of honor, and a military pension.
All women trengthened the nation, but a few stood out from the others.
Mary Otis Warren was one of them. She was a very educated woman, especially for
the time, and had a vivid interest in the war. She became he most noted
historian of the revolution, and her records wtill are a good historical source
on this subject.
Abigail Adams was another important woman of the revolution. She
addressed the women’s role in strengthineing our nation directly when she said: “
We can improve and pull our nation together by teaching our children the
priciples of democracy and the history of this nation. Don’t ever think for a
moment that our quest for independence will end when the war does.”5
John Adams, the husband of Abigail and the second President, and
Benjamin Rush spoke out for the rights of women. they urged women to receive
better educations and use what they learned. The women listend , and new
academies and schools were formed to educate them.
Because of all of these women and men, women’s position in society
changed. Mor respect for them was paid, and, as was said before, women were no
being educated as men were. But, women still did not gain full citizenship.
That was still to come.
Abigail Smith Adams was born in Weynouth Mass. Like most of the girls
of her time, she did not go to school. Even so, she taught herself to read and
used her father’s small library to it’s fulle extent. There, her quick mind
absorbed all of his books, as well as works in French that were borrowed form
her bother-in-law, who had taught her to read them.
When Abigail was nineteen, she married John Adams, who was twenty-nine.
Her mother thought that she was taking a step down in the world because in the
small villages south of Boston, where the couple had grown up, the Smiths were
much better known than the Adamses. John was a rising lawyere, but he and
Abigail were able to marry only after he had inherited a small house and a few
acres of land across teh road from his farmer brother.
With the help of a black slave woman who was borrowed from John’s mother,
Abigail set up house. From the beginning, Abigail and John got on well. Their
views on rights and tyranny were never far apart.
Abigail had a shrewd awaremess of the political and social ideas of her
time. many letters written to her husband while they were separated showed her
interest in public affairs. In seventeen seventy-six, while John was attending
the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, Abigail tried to persuade his
to extend the rights of women. She wrote:
“In the code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to
make, I desire that you would remember the ladies and be more generous and
favorable to them than your ancestors were. Do not put such unlimited power
into the hands of husbands, remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If
particular care and attention is not paid to the laides, we are determined to
forment a rebellion, and iwll not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we
have no voice or repesentation.”6
Seneca Falls Convention, 1848
The Declaration of Sentiments is read. James Mott lead the meeting on
women’s rights that took place in Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady
Stanton was present, as were many other women troubled with the Declaration of
Elizabeth Stanton spoke about how she, as others before her, including
Abigail Adams, had been troubled that the opening of the Declaration of
Independence has to do with the rights of men only. In her speech, “The
Declaration of Sentiments,” she began with, “We hold these truths to be self
evident: that all men and women are greated equal…”7
Stanton ended the “Declaration of Sentiments” with several proposals on
women’s rights. These resolutions included: the right of married women to own
and sell property, and the right of mothers to the custody of their children.
The Seneca Falls Convention voted to support these proposals.
The Seneca Falls Convention was a partial conclusion to women’s rights.
But, one resolution that Elizabeth Stanton proposed was strongly objected to by
both men and women attending teh convention. The right for women to vote was
put down by almost everyone. However, in 1920, a full conclusion was reachedin
women’s suffrage: Women were granted full citizenship.
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Pivin, Robert. America the People and the Dream. Glenview: Scott Foresman and
Patrick, John. History of the American Nation. New York: Macmillan Publishing
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“Abigail Adams.” Encylopedia Americana, 1980 ed.
“Abigail Adams.” The World Book Encyclopedia, 1978 ed.