The civil war has affected many people and America because of the war the way women are being treated has become different since before they began to join the war and help fight. Jobs, working conditions, rights, and even the society have evolved more than ever since the civil war. There was a female soldier, Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, she wrote a letter to her parents about her reasoning for joining the war. It was out of a desire to help her family and to find adventure. Here is what Sarah wrote:
“I can tell you what made me leave home. It was because I had got tired of the stay[ing] in the neighborhood. I knew that I could help you more to leave home than to stay there with you…I [am] enjoying myself better this summer than I ever did before in this world. I have good clothing and enough to eat and nothing to do, only to handle my gun and that I can do as well as the rest of them.”
When men were sent away to war women’s jobs changed. They needed to help more with the men being gone. While the men were gone they couldn’t do their jobs so the women took them over. Women took the jobs that society thought to believe was to “Difficult and dirty” for them to handle. After taking these jobs women started to perform these tasks more and more and this became a normal thing for women. Although some women stayed home and took over jobs, some were sent with the men to help them at war.
During the civil war women mostly performed the tasks of being nurses, spies, relief workers, and some women were even soldiers. When women went to war during this time it was illegal for them to be fighting alongside the men. Women would cut their hair short too where no one could tell if they were women. There were many more precautions to make sure they wouldn’t be discovered. For example, women would change their names, they would often wear clothing that doesn’t fit their figure. Most times if women were discovered it was by accident. They would only be discovered if they were being treated for wounds and or illnesses. At the time, women weren’t perceived as equals by any stretch. It was during the Victorian era and women were mostly forced to be around the domestic sphere.
Both the Union and Confederate armies made the enlistment of women illegal during the time. It was around the time of the Revolutionary War that they established women as nurses because they needed help on the front line when soldiers were injured. But women weren’t allowed to serve in combat. Of course, women did disguise themselves and enlist as men. There is evidence that they also did so during the Revolutionary War. The stories are that the physical exams were not that exact and precise at all. If you had enough teeth and could hold a musket, you were fine. The funny thing is, in this scenario, a lot of women didn’t seem any less manly than, for example, the teenage boys who were enlisting.
At the time, I believe the Union had an official cutoff age of 18 for soldiers, but that was often flouted and people often lied. They had a lot of young guys and their voices hadn’t changed and their faces were smooth. The Confederacy never actually established an age requirement. So [women] bound their breasts if they had to, and just kind of layered on clothes, wore loose clothing, cut their hair short and rubbed dirt on their faces. They also kind of kept to themselves. The evidence that survived often describes them as aloof. Keeping to themselves certainly helped maintain the secret.
Women were treated as weak and less intelligent than men before the civil war began. Women began to be admitted to some Midwestern universities in the 1850s and 1860s, but only when the universities were short of students, otherwise they would not be accepted. This shortage was obvious when many men went off to fight in the Civil War. In the 19th century, social status played a very significant part of social interaction. Military officers and any commanding officers were expected to be gentlemen and treat all women with respect. They would not see a lower class woman as their equal, but they would certainly show a level of respect to any woman regardless of status.
Today’s society has evolved so much more. Many women are fighting for our country now. Women aren’t just nurses or stay at home moms. Some things haven’t changed though. Most men still believe that women need to stay at home with the women. There still isn’t equal rights and our society is and most likely will continue to be ranked by our class levels.