Women on the Battlefield
The second volume of History of Woman Suffrage was published fifteen years after the end of the Civil War. It devotes pages to the women who served in that war, and notes that of “many thousands with headboards marked ‘Unknown,’ hundreds are those of women…” Sometimes, Anonymous was a woman.
Civil war historians estimate at least 400 people assigned female at birth served in the Union army; another 250 in the Confederacy. They fought at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and were killed in battle at Lookout Mountain. Many served for years; some were decorated and promoted.
After the Civil War, military service gradually replaced taxation as the defining characteristic of a citizen. Each successive war deepened the connection, always to the primary benefit of white men, and further excluded those presumed not to serve. Women argued that they risked their lives in childbirth to produce the soldiers, that many women did serve in various ways, and that men who did not were not disenfranchised.
Women’s service in the Great War, World War I, helped force a turning point that led to the 19th amendment. Read about two different groups of women who served in Europe: Black women who went overseas with the YMCA to support African American troops, and an all-women’s hospital unit funded by the National American Woman Suffrage Association.