During the American Revolution, most people think of the brave men who rose up, formed various militias, and took down the British in a surprising turn of world history. People do not usually think about the brave women that stayed behind. Many of these women took on their husbands’ professions to keep the economy going strong, and they also had to simultaneously maintain the appearance of their homes and raise their children in a society where the majority of the men were gone. The less politically heated women contributed to the war effort in different ways, like by sewing uniforms for the Continental Army and working in small businesses. Other women physically joined their husbands at the military camps so they would not have to be away from them, therefore moving away from the major towns and to the military centers. These were all different aspects of life for women during the Revolutionary War, but one major one has yet to be discussed: the women physically fighting in the war and taking the fight into their own hands.
Some women, however, took matters into their own hands and went out and fought for the cause themselves. One prime example of this valiant behavior was shown through the actions of Prudence Cummings Wright. Prudence was a thirty five year old mother of six, who, when the war began, joined with other townswomen to defend their town in Massachusetts while the men were out fighting in the war and nearby skirmishes. These women proudly defended their town and managed to capture multiple Tory spies who were attempting to infiltrate and spread secret coded messages. They dressed up in their husbands’ clothing, armed themselves with muskets, pitchforks, and whatever else they could find to defend themselves, and stood at Jewett’s bridge to defend their town and stop the spread of news that would hurt their revolutionary cause. Prudence was elected to be the leader of these women, and a book written shortly after the event illustrates how determined they were to do their part. The book, History of the Town of Groton, was the earliest version (1848) of the accounts of the event, and in this book the author wrote, “and having elected Mrs. Wright their commander, resolutely determined, that no foe to freedom, foreign or domestic, should pass that bridge. For rumors were rife, that the regulars were approaching, and frightful stories of slaughter flew rapidly from place to place and from house to house.” This account, even though it was written significantly later than the time the event occurred, truly show how determined these women were to defend both their town and themselves, along with the vast number of women who participated in this aspect of the war.
Prudence Cummings Wright represents many women during the Revolutionary War. People do not usually think about the fact that this was a very similar situation to when the men left for World War II, or really any other war, and the women had to step in and take up different roles. Just as they did during the other, more globalized wars, the women took up the working positions of their husbands in some cases, and also took up arms themselves. This was more common than I initially thought, given that I had typically heard of a smaller number of women disguising themselves as men and fighting in secret. Through women like Prudence Cummings Wright, more women became involved in defending themselves, their towns, and their future during the Revolutionary War, and they set a precedent for the many wars to come.