Brave Women of the Civil War

Harriet Jacobs

During the Civil War women had limited rights and were expected to act inside “the sphere of domesticity” and anything outside the sphere was frowned upon. Acts that fit inside the sphere were cooking, taking care of and teaching children, cleaning, and making clothing. Acts outside the sphere were holding a paid job, voting, going to war, going to bars, wearing pants, reading and writing about politics, and public speech. Some women chose to act outside of the sphere and some chose to act inside the sphere during the Civil War.

One woman who chose to act outside of the sphere was Dorothea Dix. Dix was a superintendent of women nurses during the war and she took control and ordered people around. Dix was put in charge to the point of controlling male doctors and they did not like a woman making their decisions. Her controlling men was an act considered outside the sphere. Another woman who acted outside the sphere was Belle Boyd, a spy for the confederate army. To get information Boyd dressed as a man or flirted with other soldiers. A female spy was frowned upon and considered outside the sphere. Harriet Jacobs was another woman that acted outside the sphere during the Civil War. She was an escaped slave that wrote for the Liberator about slave abolition. Public speech was outside the sphere so Harriet Jacobs was too. Women acted outside the sphere because they felt that staying at home was not helping the men at war. They wanted to contribute to the war in some way that would actually help and the only way to do that was to act outside the sphere.

Image URL: http://ofa.fas.harvard.edu/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/jacobs.jpg

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