The Female Voice (1860-1865)

Events

Underground Railroad (Harriet Tubman)

1831 - 1861

Harriet Tubman was a strong anti-slavery female force in the war, helping lead many slaves to freedom with the famous Underground Railroad, which ended in 1861. Throughout the time that it was active, she rescued over seventy slaves from Maryland, and helped about fifty or sixty slaves escape to Canada. She was devoted to the abolitionist cause, even though the penalties if she were caught were absolutely horrible. This event was important because it helped save the lives of many slaves and helped further feelings of anti-slavery, helping the Union forces. An interesting fact about this event is that Harriet Tubman was not the only one who ran the Underground Railroad; many others ran it as well, such as Frederick Douglass, Gerrit Smith, and John Brown, amongst others.

Passing of Married Women’s Property Acts

Approx. 1860 - Approx. 1865

The major passing of married women’s property acts in the United States happened from the first stirrings of the Civil War in 1860, but the real changes occurred toward the end of the Civil War in 1865. The married women’s property acts were laws in which married women could sell and own property, make changes to property, control earnings, sue, and make wills, and also made divorce and remarriage easier. In 1860, fourteen states had passed these laws; by 1865, twenty-nine states had passed these laws. This event was important because it helped further the cause of equality for women, while also providing security to women whose husbands died in the war. It also may have helped shape the Union victory in the war because women could manage their husbands’ property and funds while they were away fighting, leaving more men available to fight. One fun fact is that three states (Delaware, South Carolina, and Virginia) did not give women all of these rights until late in the nineteenth century.

Women fight in Civil War

Approx. 1861 - Approx. 1865

Women in Charge of Food Supply

1861

Women were in charge of the food supply of the Civil War starting in 1861. Rations included meat, bread, and vegetables most days, with potatoes being substituted in regularly if vegetables were not as accessible; condensed milk was also popular. However, there was a significant lack of food in the South, but the South did have a lot more tobacco than the North. Many women formed organizations to collect food for the soldiers, who greatly needed it. This was significant because enough food helped boost troop morale and helped soldiers fight more effectively. An interesting fact about the event was that many women had multiple jobs in the war and distribution of food; they sometimes went from cooking food directly to nursing and back again.

Women Help at Home During Civil War

Approx. 1861 - Approx. 1865

Many women helped oversee farms, plantations, and businesses starting in 1861. Many men were away at war, so women started to perform duties typically entrusted to males; management of household funds, the overseeing of the men’s businesses, and overall breaking gender roles in what their positions were in society. This event was significant because it helped shape the view of women to make them seem less helpless; it also aided men in the war because they were free to go fight without being needed at home. One fact about this is that many women managed children and housekeeping on top of businesses, farms, and many other responsibilities, which was incredibly time-consuming.

Women act as Spies in Civil War

Approx. 1863 - Approx. 1865

Women as spies happened all throughout the war as well, but mostly in the middle of the war, about 1863. Women used spying to obtain information about their enemies, mainly by using their charm and flirting with the enemy’s soldiers. One famous female spy for the Confederate side was named Belle Boyd, who aided the Confederacy by obtaining information on the Union while escaping any blame and using her being a woman to her advantage. Female spies were important because they helped obtain information for their respective sides of the war, which may have impacted who won the war in the end. One fact about this event was that women who were caught spying often were not punished or punished very lightly.

Formation of Women's national League

May 14, 1863

The first ever national women’s political group in the United States, formed to campaign for an amendment to the Constitution for the abolishment of slavery. It collected nearly half a million signatures on a petition to do so. The event was important because it helped support the abolitionist cause and helped end slavery once and for all, and helped boost Union spirits. An interesting fact about this event is that Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the founders of the organization, also was one of the co-organizers of the Seneca Falls Convention, a convention to discuss the rights of women in 1848.