Tuesday, July 12, 2011

150 Years Ago this Month: American Families Prepare for War, Part 3

This is another piece in my Beyond the Battlefield series aimed at showing how war impacted all portions of society, regardless of age or sex:

No Idle Hands
"There is Much for Us to Do, and We Must Do It!"

The statement above, made by Judith McGuire, a resident of Alexandria, Virginia (and a refugee for much of the war), illustrates the "commitment to their cause" demonstrated by women in both North and South as war became a reality. Almost as quickly as American men began enlisting in the war effort, American women began doing all they could to support them.

From the very beginning, it was obvious that many things would be needed by the soldiers which the women they left at home could supply: underclothing, shirts, pants, blankets, etc. Women of the era were trained from a young age to knit, crochet and sew a wide variety of items, so it was only natural that in such a time they would gather together to produce them in great quantity.  Lucy Wood of Charlottesville, Virginia spoke volumes in a letter to her fiancee when she wrote, “Our needles are now our weapons. . .”  In numerous diary accounts of the early war effort, however, it becomes obvious that the non-stop needlework was prompted by more than just a desire to provide for loved ones; activity was a constructive way of dealing with anxiety. Virginian Sara Pryor said it well: “To be idle in war is torture.”

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