student wrote this to me, i need to post back on the discussion. 5-7 sentences
The Civil War was a time where the 34 states that made up the United States became divided between the North (the Union) and the South (the Confederacy) in a dispute over the country wide abolition of slavery. Similar to the Revolutionary War nearly a century ago, husbands left their wives to fight in the war. This time around however, women contributed to the war in ways that pushed social gender norms even further.
Caring for the sick was not anything new to women as it was considered a traditionally female skill. In the war however, medical care was a man’s world due to the thought that nursing in wartime was not appropriate for women. Women such as Mary Ann Bickerdyke positioned herself highly in a place where men were meant to have complete control. She became known as Mother Bickerdyke as she cared deeply for Union soldiers as she was witnessed brutalities of war up close on the battlefield and in escorting Union soldiers from notorious confederate prison. She was greatly celebrated and rode in a place of honor at the end of the war victory parade.
In the text images that depict female nurses on the battlefield and caring for soldiers on both Confederate and Union sides are similar when you take a close look. The image that shows Mother Bickerdyke caring for a wounded Union soldier shows her through lighting, that she is an angelic being in the dark, war environment surrounding her. Her facial expression shows that she is deeply caring and compassionate and that she still has soft femininity to her in the manly world of war. Viewing the image of the Confederate nurse she is depicted as the peak of what southern white womanhood embodies. She is attractive, dressed lavishly, indoors away from war, and portrayed as gentle. I find that the southern woman being portrayed as attractive as interesting due to the fact that Union nurses were required to look plain in physical appearance and attire. I feel that the images gives more insight into the differences in ways that women were viewed by men in the North and South. Northern women were more progressive in their movement for equal rights than southern women and it was slightly accepted in their society to have women be vocal. Southern women were a part of an extremely submissive society where their husbands defended their honor and were held to a high pedestal of femininity. In nursing, many of the southern women had their slaves do the grunge work that was seen as being beneath them.
Fighting in the Civil War was completely absurd for women to participate in, but they found ways to do so. Women dressing up as male soldiers was a common practice as many were able to avoid detection due easy requirements to join the armies and the ability to pass as teenage boys. Some women aided the armies serving as spies and even had a type of informal uniform. Images of Harriet Tubman and Bridget Divers show them in a similar uniform consisting of men’s military jacket and a long skirt. I feel that the jackets were to show that the women were contributing to the war as part of the union army, while the skirts showed a touch of femininity.
The women we are shown in the video and textbook that participated directly in war had to prove themselves in a place where men saw them as much weaker and that they had a certain place that they belonged to. These women worked hard to prove that they could be as good as any man.