Feminist History in the Civil War

Jason Arquette
Professor Hirsh
Blog Post 9u
October 10th, 2017

The United States Civil War is often remembered in popular memory as a war of the states, a war over slavery, and war led by men of both the North and South. However, when approached from this perspective a rather significant portion of the population is left out of the picture: women.
During the Civil War women were not simply left at home to tend to children, farms, or factories. Whether they recognized the cause of the Union or the Confederacy women on both sides were eager to get involved in the war. Most notably, their endeavors led them to lead nursing brigades. In the North this program was officially recognized as the United States Sanitary Commission and close to 20,000 women volunteered to serve this unit and treat injured soldiers. Counter to the Union the Confederacy did not actually create an official commission for women nurses, but nonetheless they took it upon themselves to act as unofficial nurses during the war. Furthermore women of the Confederacy were sometimes known to stay at soldiers’ camps to perform tasks such as uniform repair and overall camp maintenance.
Utilizing the feminist historiographical approach does more than just reveal the specifics of women’s role during the Civil War. This type of historiography extends the context through which we view the Civil War to understand the impact that a previously dulled portion of society has on a typically male dominated event in history. What is also interesting about a feminist perspective is the types of primary sources that can be used; aside from the standard journals, newspapers, etc. However in this instance historians can also look to the medical tools used by nurse brigades, and even domestic equipment at solider’s camps can be used to construct the feminist perspective of the Civil War.

Word Count: 298

Works Cited:
History.com Staff. “Women in the Civil War.” History.com. 2010. Accessed October 10, 2017. http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/women-in-the-civil-war.

“Historiographic Approaches.” Oxford Scholarship. November 08, 2014. Accessed October 10, 2017. http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195333060.001.0001/acprof-9780195333060-chapter-1.

  1 comment for “Feminist History in the Civil War

  1. hryan
    October 13, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    Great understanding of why different historiographical perspectives are important! As you point out, changing perspective can even change the bodies of evidence used to construct arguments. But if the material culture of women can be used to piece together their experience, can’t material culture also be used for men?
    -HR

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