Life During Wartime

Life During Wartime > Women

Visitors learn about the sewing of the Star-Spangled Banner at the Flag House in Baltimore. Courtesy Visit Baltimore

Many women played a role in the War of 1812, but only a few left any record of their experiences, mostly in the form of letters and diaries. These surviving accounts are most often those of literate women of the upper and middle classes.

The accounts of soldiers’ wives, farmwives, female servants and slaves, free black women, and American Indian women are rare. We can only assume that these women managed their families, households, and local affairs while their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons served in the military defending the nation and the Chesapeake. Some, including the fabled Kitty Knight, encountered the enemy firsthand.

Women at the time of war had limited political and economic rights under the US government. Some women expressed dissatisfaction with limitations in the new nation that claimed to value equality, personal freedom, and opportunity for political and economic advancement among its citizens. Some began to shape new entrepreneurial paths for themselves by working outside the domestic realm to support their families.

 

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