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The American Revolution had a remarkable impact on slavery and women in the United States. Although slave trade and its associated activities continued to flourish in the south, continued protests by northern abolitionists instigated a campaign against detainment and oppression of captives.
This situation led to liberation of more slaves from the constraints of slave masters in the south. The American Revolution ushered a new phase of feminist reformists who advocated for women’s rights. After independence, many slavery abolitionists and women rights activists brought about a transformed society. This research paper analyses the impact of the American Revolution on slavery and women.
Impact of Revolution on Slavery
The American Revolution remarkably brought about significant changes to the institution of slavery. Firstly, it played a great role in ending captivity in North America. According to Marsh (2004), slave owners in Northern America were willing to free their slaves after the revolution.
In addition, they agitated for the abolishment of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. They considered slaves as beings who deserved dignified treatment as humans. However, the freeing of slaves in the north did not guarantee them freedom from slavery (Marsh, 2004).
The southern economy was rapidly flourishing due to large cash crop plantations that demanded more laborers. Therefore, freed slaves from the north were sold to the southerners to work in the plantations. However, anti-slavery activists from the north together with some of the unrestrained detainees initiated an ‘underground railroad’ revolution that freed captives who were working in the southern plantations (Marsh, 2004).
The idea of ending servitude was first initiated in Britain before it spread to other parts of the world such as Northern America. Many activists and feminists supported its abolishment. In his speech “No Compromise with the Evil of Slavery” in 1854, William Garrison regarded slavery as an insensitive treatment of fellow humans and was against the Law of God. He sharply condemned slavery and advocated for its immediate abolishment (Marsh, 2004).
After his speech, many other activists and abolitionists ascended to fight for the rights of blacks and women. Freed slaves and other opponents of the slave trade in the north agitated for release and freedom of slaves in the south. This situation led to freeing of between 40,000 to 100,000 slaves in the 1830s (Marsh, 2004).
Furthermore, the American Revolution led relocation of slaves to new lands. During the upheaval, slaves were engaged in real fighting (Schweninger, 2014). Both slaves and blacks sided with the British and continentals. The British promised them liberty and land.
As a result, some freed slaves were relocated to new lands in Sierra Leone, Canada, England, and Australia. About one-eighth of those who fled their masters were women. Most women together with their children, were forced to leave their husbands (who were in were fighting the colonies) behind as they sought liberation. However, relocation of the slaves did not guarantee them better lives.
The American Revolution was not an easy time for the slave. According to Schweninger (2014), many slaves died during the revolutionary war. Indentured servants and slaves were promised freedom. Slaves who were owned by rebels sided with the British and opposed their masters. However, those who were owned by the loyalists supported their masters (Schweninger, 2014). Rebelling slaves underwent untold suffering. They lacked food and were highly vulnerable to diseases owing to meagre healthiness.
As a result, many of them succumbed to death because they contracted diseases that had limited prevention and treatment at the time. Indeed, diseases caused more deaths than warfront wounds. Moreover, the revolution caused an influx of criminals in prisons.
Earlier, criminals were transported to colonies where they worked as servants. However, this privilege ended when the British lost control of its colonies to the Americans. Therefore, all criminals were sentenced to prisons. This turn of events led to massive congestion in the American prisons (Schweninger, 2014).
Impact of Revolution on Women
According to Lewis and Lewis (2011), the American Revolution had remarkable effects on women. During the revolution, women played a range of roles that were mostly domestic chores. The Homespun movement that engaged women in weaving to supply their families with clothes and blankets evidenced this situation.
In addition, they kept their homes safe for public services such as provision of housing to American soldiers during the revolution war. Furthermore, the situation forced some women to participate as soldiers to reinforce the warfare (Lewis & Lewis, 2011).
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Moreover, other women participated in politics and activist activities. Earlier, Women were not allowed to take part in politics and other economic matters. However, the American Revolution ushered new rules that permitted women to participate in public matters. Although most women were adamant to join public institutions, a few of them chose to become political figures (Grasso, 2008).
However, after the revolution, more women gradually featured in the public domain either as activists or as politicians. In a bid to reform the society, these women formed organizations that advocated for transformation of the American society. These organizations instilled good morals, values, and virtuous ideas in children.
Political changes that took place after the revolution triggered various feminist reform agendas and social movements. Inequality and gender discrimination forced women to demand participation in public affairs such as voting and involvement in state decisions. However, they faced many challenges. Many were unemployed and were not able to undertake public responsibilities (Grasso, 2008).
Many feminists and abolitionists propagated activism in an attempt to defend women rights after the revolutionary war. After independence, they further fought for abolishment of slavery and establishment of gender, social, and racial equality amongst the blacks and whites.
In 1848, Fredric Douglass (a prominent opponent of slave trade and bondage activities) led a group of feminists and abolitionists during the Seneca Falls convention to address the rights of women to vote and participate in government affairs. Together with other activists, he supported the idea of allowing blacks to vote (Greene & Pole, 2003).
Feminist agendas and social movements that took place after the revolution promoted the status of women rights in America. This state of affairs was triggered by political, cultural, social, economic, and intellectual changes that were dramatically changing the American community. As a result, the womenfolk demanded voting rights and participation in public goings-on, a situation that led to endorsement of women rights in 1837.
In addition, the launch of the American Female Moral Association (AFMA) in the 1830s led to enactment of women’s rights regulation over the control of their bodies. It opposed sexual double standards that were prevalent during the slavery period. Other transformations that took place included campaigns for women’s right to access higher education. Fuelled by abolitionists and feminists, they stepped forward to defend their rights to learn in both private and public schools (Sklar, 2002).
According to Sklar (2002), the revolution overthrew the ruling monarchs. This situation raised the middle class to power. However, the blacks were not allowed to vote or take part in government affairs. Furthermore, black women underwent dreadful experiences such as poor health, pain, and unsolved deaths during prenatal periods.
Infant mortality was high because of meagre fitness. Although, women slaves who gave births were allowed to take care of their children up to weaning, their plight was overriding during this period. Nonetheless, the rise of abolitionists and feminists (after independence) significantly improved the statuses of women (Greene & Pole, 2003).
The American Revolution significantly led to the rise of abolitionists and activists who fought against slave trade and suffrage of women. However, the revolutionary war had dreadful effects on slaves. Enslaved women underwent suffering and dreadful experiences. Although the rebellion movements led to freeing to slaves, the phenomenon did not better the situation of women. Due to poor health, many women perished during prenatal periods while infants succumbed to diseases that were incurable at the time.
Nonetheless, continued fight for the rights bore fruits at the end, as many slaves in the Americas were liberated from the constraints of the ruthless masters. This situation led to the rise of revolutionists who fought for the representation of blacks and rights of women. Constitutional amendments that were endorsed later guaranteed liberty and equality amongst women. Therefore, the American Revolution was the advent of successive benefits that were enjoyed by the freed slaves, especially women.
Grasso, C. (2008). Deist Monster on Religious Common Sense in the Wake of the American Revolution. The Journal of American History, 95(1), 17-42.
Greene, J., & Pole, J. (2003). The Impact of the Revolution on the Role, Status, and Experience of Women. Web.
Lewis, J., & Lewis, C. (2011). Women and Slavery in America: A Documentary History. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press.
Marsh, B. (2004). Women and the American Revolution in Georgia. Georgia Historical Quarterly, 88(2), 157-78.
Schweninger, L. (2014). Freedom Suits, African American Women, and the Genealogy of Slavery. William & Mary Quarterly, 71(1), 35-62.
Sklar, K. (2002). From Wollstonecraft to Mill: What British and European Ideas and Social Movements Influenced the Emergence of Feminism in the Atlantic World, 1792-1869? Journal Universal, 4(8), 276.