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Revolutionary Women

Revolutionary woman, Suzanne Adair wrote a comment about her book on my blog and I was so enthralled by it I asked if I could post it as a guest article, rather than as a comment. Enjoy.

Award-winning novelist Suzanne Adair is a Florida native who lives in a two hundred-year-old city at the edge of the North Carolina Piedmont, named for an English explorer who was beheaded. Her suspense and thrillers transport readers to the Southern theater of the Revolutionary War, where she brings historic towns, battles, and people to life. She fuels her creativity with Revolutionary War reenacting and visits to historic sites. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking, dancing, and spending time with her family.

<i>The Revolution had little emancipating effect on women who, of course, protected hearth and home and participated in the fight just as much as did the men</i>

The role that women played during the Revolutionary War actually kick-started the emancipation of American women. Here’s the background.

When a man went off to fight for or against the King, he left his business/farm to his women. Women had to do it all, right? Thus in the absence of their menfolk, women ran the businesses and farms, often doing a <i>better</i> job at it than their men. And women did <i>everything</i> that men had done, even the jobs we think of as traditionally masculine; they were printers, blacksmiths, lighthouse keepers, carriage makers, etc.

When men returned from the war, they couldn’t help but notice what women had done in their absence as well as the fact that women were not content to be shoved back into the domestic damsel role. Men who had fought for the cause of independence — men who were responsible for shaping the new country — realized what a great asset women were. They also realized that American women needed to be educated beyond just reading, writing, and ciphering.

The first college for women was established shortly after the Revolutionary War because of this realization. True, the initial agenda was, “Educate women about philosophy, science, and politics so they can become good patriots and nurture the next generation to shun the evils of monarchy.” But Americans didn’t buy that for more than a couple generations. Women continued to gain ground.

Single women kept a certain amount of identity, but when they married, their sense of self was sucked up into the status of the men they married.

Yes, and widows, like unmarried women, held more power than married women. But history is peppered with examples of married women who found ways to circumvent these laws.

Suzanne says “what made me write Camp Follower, several things. First of all, I had an enigmatic exchange in my first book, Paper Woman, between the protagonist, Sophie, and her brother, David, in which she asked him whether he’d ever killed a man before, and he admitted that he dueled with and killed a man over the man’s wife years earlier. In the 21st century, David would be locked away for murder, but this sort of illegal dueling went on well into the 19th century, with men getting away with murder. I wondered what the woman at the center of the duel was like, to have instigated such a violent event. I decided that she and David were still in a relationship, and I wanted to explore how murder had shaped their relationship. That became a sub-plot for Camp Follower.

In addition, I wanted to correct the wrong impression we have of camp followers. When you read the term, you think “prostitute.” But in the 18th century, the people who qualified as camp followers — civilians who traveled with an army but were not directly paid or compensated for it by the army  — might be artisans (ex. blacksmiths), sutlers (ex. merchants), or retainers (ex. family members). Family members followed armies all the time during the Revolutionary War because most cities back then were too small to afford protection from an entire army, and the army was the safest place to be. Prostitutes, in fact, made up only a small percentage of people traveling with an army. Most of the women retainers were wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters of soldiers, and they had a hard, hard life following an army after their menfolk. So I tell their stories in Camp Follower.

Also, I was intrigued by the idea of thrusting a woman journalist into a war correspondent role, even though there were no true war correspondents back then. Women journalists mostly wrote the Society Page in magazines. We have no records of them ever going into battle danger. But what would happen if a woman did find herself in such a position? What kind of woman would she have to be to survive the brutality of a battleground? I also explore this in Camp Follower.

The vast majority of our first-hand accounts from the Revolutionary War are from the point of view of men, mostly soldiers. Women of the time don’t seem to have a voice. But, I thought, if I could give women from that time voices, what would they say about the war? Certainly, it would be different from what men would say, and it most definitely wouldn’t be a romance.”

Revolutionary woman, for sure.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for having me as a guest today, Sylvia. Camp Follower is free today in the Kindle Store and currently ranked at #21 there!

    February 15, 2012
  2. Profile photo of Sylvia Dickey Smith

    Thanks for sharing your post, Suzanne. Very eye opening! Good luck on your launch! Sylvia

    February 17, 2012

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