During the Civil War, women felt that they could be useful not only in the domestic sphere but also in the public arena. They took advantage of this opportunity, believing that this would help to establish equal rights with men. Nursing work in hospitals was another area of activity that involved women. They represented various parts of society: both the lower one and the public elite (Shultz 2004). Many African American women worked in the same conditions as white women. For instance, they were doing cooking, nursing, and laundry work in military hospitals. Notably, women from the South did not get enough support from the government: they did not feel protected by the Confederacy and were opposed to it, which made them feel more stressed.
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A special place among the female population was occupied by those who worked in factories. They lived in severe conditions and were humiliated by men. The death rate, illness, and injury among female workers were quite high. Women had lower salaries than men, performing the same amount of work (Shultz 2004). Women wrote petitions and appealed to officials and ministers, asking them to reform their way of life. As a result, women’s important activity has become participation in trade unions to protect their rights.
The women’s life during the Civil War was complicated and, in some aspects, unfair. On the one hand, outdated prejudices of men about the inferiority of women kept existing at that time. On the other hand, the war changed the previous standards of life, so women were pushed to take serious public posts. The war delayed the resolution of the “women’s issue,” as patriotic sentiments prevented a balanced understanding of the problem. The Civil War introduced negative aspects to the lives of women and hindered their intellectual and material development.
Shultz, Jane. 2004. Women at the Front: Hospital Workers in Civil War America. Charlotte, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.