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Mary Beth Norton, Liberty's daughters : the Revolutionary experience of American women, 1750-1800: with a new preface. (Ithaca:Cornell University Press, 1996), 195-196.


“Most narratives of the revolutionary war concentrate on describing a series of pitched battles between uniformed armies. Yet the impact of the conflict can more accurately be assessed if it is interpreted as a civil war with profound consequences for the entire population.(1) Every movement of troops through the American countryside brought a corresponding flight of refugees, an invasion of epidemic disease, the expropriation of foodstuffs, firewood, and livestock, widespread plundering or destruction of personal property, and occasional incidents of rape. In addition to bearing these common burdens of warfare, Americans who remained loyal to the Crown had to contend with persecution, property confiscation, and forced exile, as did patriots who lived in areas controlled by the British, although for them such reverses were only temporary.
The disruption of normal patterns of life that resulted from all these seldom-studied aspects of the conflict had an especially noticeable effect upon women, whose prewar experiences had been confined largely to the domestic realm. With their menfolk away serving in the armies for varying lengths of time, white female Americans had to venture into new fields of endeavor. In the midst of wartime trials, they alone had to make crucial decisions involving not only household and family but also the ‘outdoor affairs’ from which they had formerly been excluded. After initially expressing hesitation about their ability to assume these new responsibilities, many white women gained a new appreciation of their own capacity and of the capability of their sex in general as they learned to handle unfamiliar tasks.”

1. Two of the most important recent examinations of the Revolution from this standpoint are John Shy, “The Military Conflict Considered as a Revolutionary War,” in his A People Numerous and Armed (New York, 1976), 193-224; and Ronald Hoffman, “The ‘Disaffected’ in the Revolutionary South,” in Alfred F. Young, ed., The American Revolution: Essays in the History of American Radicalism (DeKalb, Illinois, 1975), 273-316.

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