The EuroAmerican women, whether they made their home in the north or the south contributed greatly to the advancement of their respective causes, joining the war effort by taking on unheard of functions. The war opened up challenging opportunities for women in vocations that before were only accessible to men. Women went into nursing, spying, and even soldiering. These unusual roles allowed women to demonstrate their strengths and abilities by moving outside the boundaries of cultural expectations for females.
Women during the Civil War also carried on the daily responsibilities of the farm or plantation. They maintained their homes and families while husbands and sons fought and died for their beliefs. Women faced life-style changes which they never dreamed they would have to endure to accomplish the minimum levels of survival for themselves and their families.
EuroAmerican women contributed and sacrificed for the respective sides they were devoted to. They fought the war just as strongly as their male partners; however for them a clear cut victory or defeat was blurred by the many newly adopted responsibilities which gave their image in the American culture a new look.
Elementary children regardless of gender love action. They sit engaged while reading a story where they must always predict what might happen to the main characters. Suspense and adventure are always an asset to any unit of study. Euro-American women took great risks to pass along very accurate and detailed information to the Union and the Confederate armies. The stories of such women will certainly aid in bringing the Civil War into the classroom and in making it real and personally intriguing for the students.
An inquiry by students into the lives of female spies will lead them to
Sarah Emma Edmonds.
Young historians will be able to connect with Sarah, a Canadian, who ran away from home at sixteen to escape a marriage her father had arranged. A skilled horsewoman who grew up hunting and fishing with her brothers, she will draw even the most restless male student into a study of the Civil War.
The children will learn tales of how Sarah became Franklin Thompson. They will learn of her involvement as a soldier and spy for the Union Army. They will discover how, disguised as a black slave, she helped to build a fort for the Confederates, all the while taking notes on the layout of the fort and all its guns. Pictures of Sarah as Franklin Thompson and pictures of her after the war, married and the mother of three children provide an interesting way to illustrate a woman moving out of society’s boundaries for her to forge new pathways for her gender.
To balance the heroic life of Sarah Emma Edmonds the Confederate forces had their
Rose O’Neal Greenhow.
With her life students will have another opportunity to witness women reaching beyond their traditional roles to help promote the success of their convictions.
The life of Rose O’Neal Greenhow can be explored using both written and electronic media. This gives students experiences in research and discovery through several pathways. Thanks to the on-line Archival Collection at Duke University the children can learn about her experiences and feelings through her first hand correspondences. They can actually view the letters she wrote to Alexander Boteler, Francis P. Corbin, and Jefferson Davis relating to her activities on behalf of the Confederate States of America. They can read actual newspaper clippings about Greenhow’s imprisonment in 1861 and death in 1864. The on-line information will serve as a catalyst for further reading and research about her life through use of the list of titles of other books about “Wild Rose’s” life supplied by the special Collections Library, Duke University.
A letter dated July 16, 1863 to Jefferson Davis shows how important a place Rose took in the society of Washington D.C. and the Confederacy. The children can witness in Greenhow’s own writing information about her meeting with General Robert E. Lee in Richmond. They can gain an understanding of a country divided, of a people struggling to hang on to a way of life by reading Rose’s description of a city booming with gun fire. One can feel the panic in her words as she relates to Jefferson Davis about the cars laden with cotton being sent to the interior to protect them from the hands of the Yankees. Feel the distress in General Beauregard as Greenhow writes about the Yankee’s position of Morris Island and the lack of slaves and man power to fortify Charleston against the union forces. One can feel the tension as Rose describes the finger pointing of the Confederates as to who was to blame for the current state of affairs in the battle tallies. This letter and other pieces in the Duke Collection are utilized in this unit to engage all children, making history come alive for them. They show how strong a role women played in connecting together the pieces of war always stretching their positions in the community to support their own beliefs. The students experiencing these diaries and letters will gain an appreciation for the importance of using writing as a way of documenting and informing.
This study will include lessons and activities to complement and enhance the writing skills of the children. What better way to teach the personal narrative writing genre objective of the third grade then through examples and experimenting with the creation of personal diaries and letters.
Having taken time to focus attention on the exciting lives of women who became fulfilled as they altered their daily purposes to actively participate in the war we now must introduce into our study the large group of Euro-Americans who stayed at home and endured great hardship and grief trying to maintain some semblance of a normal life. These women fought the battle on the homefront with devotion and fortitude while praying for the safe return of loved ones.
With a large percentage of the men away in the service the work load became realigned out of necessity. Women took on jobs in factories, and the physical labor of running farms or managing plantations. They also entered the traditionally male-dominated field of teaching. These women receiving less pay for the same jobs as the men had were caused to alter their lifestyles in order to cope with the high prices and shortages produced by the war. Women’s standard of living went down drastically as every day was a challenge to get through using old methods of doing daily activities and substituting one thing for another.
It is these day-to-day routines of women that will be brought into view for the children as they are given a chance to experience diaries of four women who were part of a project in the late 1930’s where WPA explored rural America interviewing people about their lives and history. These four women survivors of the Civil War period in South Carolina, in their own words, give accounts of the life of women during the war. These accounts are part of the
Library of Congress American Memory Project
and can be explored by students learning to use the on-line computer in the multi-media center of the school.
Mrs. Mary Lipscomb
tells of living in Charleston while it was being shelled by Yankees. She shares how her hotel room was shot through. She relates the difficulty she had in leaving her husband fighting while she left the city by train. One can’t help but feel the stress and pain in her voice as she relates to her interviewer her experiences with Yankee soldiers who came to her plantation, killing the animals,and taking away her favorite beautiful young mare. The children will hopefully be able to gain a personal value for peace over war. This study will hopefully give children a better understanding of the fact that war affects all people not just the men fighting but permanently scars the hearts and minds of all it touches no matter which side of the fence you are defending or where you are placed around the fence.
During the war Union was as gay on the surface as ever. When the soldiers came home on furlough, wounded, maimed, and filthy, the women took them and cleaned them up, patched their ragged clothes and had parties and dances for them. The women of Union could and did dance and sing and make merry with aching and bleeding hearts to keep up the spirits and courage of their men folks who came home so discouraged and blue in the face of defeat. The Union soldiers outnumbered ours four to one toward the last. Women in Union did everything. They never gave up and they never stopped making much with nothing.(Library of Congress, American Memory Project)
These words of
Mrs. Ida Baker
who was interviewed by Caldwell Simms, Union, S.C. say it all! The strength, the pain, the dedication, the sacrifice and passing of the only way of life that many women had known; how very heavy were these times for all people of the United States of America. This interview included in this study will help the children understand the commonality of all people.
Ms. Baker talks of Christmas without the usual presents. There was no merchandise in the stores or very little money to purchase goods if there was. What child can not relate to the feelings and experiences of Christmas? A comparison of Christmas during the Civil War and Christmas customs of the late twentieth century will be a part of this unit accomplished through the interview, children’s books and field trips. The objective, activity and project will be attached in the section designed specifically for that purpose at the end of this section.
Spelling bees were a part of the social life of the Civil War era.
in her interview explains the events in detail. She talks of “how the poorest speller had to put a wreath on the hand of the best speller.”(American Memory Project) Students will design and participate in a spelling bee patterned after what they discover when they read about Mrs. Bower’s experiences attending and participating in these happenings.
Mrs. Bowers talks about sewing contests, candy pullings and other ways that women used to gain relief from the stresses and losses of war. She talks about how at six years she sat on the lap of a Union Captain begging him not to burn her house down. Children will be able to relate to the feelings of Mrs. Bowers and again the Civil War will not be just a piece of history that they are connected to only during Black History Month.
The fourth southern women whose interview will be located and explored will be
Mrs. Devereux, the Mistress of Magnolia Hall.
Her interview is very detailed and contains a great deal of family history. This piece will round out the look at Euro-American women’s daily lives as illustrated by the on-line Library of Congress American Memory Project. The students will be able to gain a southern perspective of the day -to-day operations of a cotton plantation and the extremes of activities between the white plantation owner’s family and the black slave and free black workers’ families.
The last area of this section of the unit will be based on
Godey’s Magazine and Lady’s Book.
Actual copies of the book are available and will be a great tool to use to show children what a magazine similar to today’s Good Housekeeping or Ladies Home Journal looked like during the mid 1800’s. The children will be able to see actual pictures of houses and the plans to build them. They will be able to see patterns to make clothing and the styles and methods of the day. They will be able to read stories, both fiction and nonfiction written for and by women of that period. Period poetry and music will be a part of this look into the past for today’s children through the use of this authentic piece of history. Detailed lessons in ways to use this book will be located with the other activities for the exploration of this section.