Women and Patriotism in Jim Crow America

By Francesca Morgan | Go to book overview

Chapter One
The Nation

U.S. WOMEN began engaging in sustained patriotic activity in peacetime only in the nineteenth century's closing decades.1 Before, women had organized as patriots in response to wars that demanded significant sacrifices from civilian populations. In the American Revolution and the Civil War, women supplied armies with funds, food, clothing, and their own labor in the absence of modern-day military supply networks.2 Occasionally as commemorated lovingly by early twentieth-century clubwomen women themselves engaged in warfare. Some disguised themselves as men, as did the Revolutionary soldier Deborah Sampson, and some did not, as in the cases of numerous white and black Civil War spies and of Hannah Duston hailed in Puritan New England for the numerous Indian scalps she brought with her in escaping capture.3

An apparent exception to the pattern of wartime female patriotism was the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union (MVLA). Ann Pamela Cun ningham, a thirty-eight-year-old South Carolina planter's daughter with Unionist sympathies, formed this small organization of wealthy white women in 1854 in order to buy George Washington's adult home in Virginia and convert it into an inspirational house museum. A national network, the mvla was the first of many female associations to purchase property deemed historically significant and to convert that property into a symbol intended to unify a nation.4 These innovators directly inspired the women's nationalism of later decades. Ellen Hardin Walworth, for example, raised funds for

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