Many of the slaves initially remained on the plantations in the South, but as the war wore on, more and more of them left. Women took to the fields themselves to harvest the crops, along with their children. Eventually most of the plantations collapsed under the devastation of the Union Army ravaging their livestock and food. Lower class women fared even worse, as they struggled simply to feed themselves and their children.
Some women followed their men onto the battle field, cooking and nursing as the battles raged around them. Nursing had traditional been a man's domain up until this time, but as the male population became more and more decimated, the women assumed that role. Every facility available became a hospital, from churches to front porches, and the women tended to the wounded.
In the North women organized sewing societies to make blankets, flags, and knit scarves and socks for their loved ones. They canned food, planted vegetable gardens and raised funds for medical supplies. Some women, on both sides, disguised themselves as men and fought alongside the men. On both sides there were women who acted as spies.
Perhaps more than any other war, the Civil War shifted the roles of women from keepers at home to serving in an active position in society. I can't help but think how women always rise to the occasion when called upon.
Golden Keyes Parsons writes historical fiction, and is also a popular retreat/conference speaker. Her highly acclaimed Darkness to Light Series (Thomas Nelson) chronicled the journey of her French Huguenot ancestors in 17th century France. Her fourth novel, His Steadfast Love, is a Civil War novel set in Texas. Her latest release is a compilation of four novellas (WhiteFire Publishing) – a biblical fiction series entitled Hidden Faces, Portraits of Nameless Women in the Gospels. Golden lives in Waco, TX, with her husband, Blaine, where they enjoy their children, grandchildren and are avid sports fans of their alma mater, Baylor University. You can contact her at www.goldenkeyesparsons.com.