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Thursday, March 21, 2013
12:00 AM | Posted by Tara
These days women in combat is a hot topic. Will a woman meet the grueling standards required? Is the Marine Corps decision to let them fight wrong? Can a woman truly fight in battle as well as a man?
While I was researching the roles of women nurses during the US Civil War for An Uncivil War the Marine Corps decision was all over the news. It was serendipity to have that playing in the background as my nurse research led to the discovery that in our own civil war over 150 years ago women were fighting on those bloody fields, most of them disguised as men.
It’s a dirty little secret that never showed up in my history books during school.
If it had I might have paid more attention.
After all, for most of us the role of women in that war was reserved to pining at home for their husbands and sons. Visions of that certain iconic movie and the hospital scene of men laid out for acres in the dirt. Their roles keeping home and hearth and struggling to maintain land and keep their home free of invading desperate soldiers.
Yet now you can find reports scattered, most infamous—although some prove more known—of women’s bodies discovered dead, or wounded soldiers sent home because their femininity was discovered.
Strong, fierce, and proud women fighting alongside men that often didn’t even know who they were fighting next to.
In the past I’ve always avoided the period of the civil war. I always focused on the time after, on the frontier and the ‘wild’ west, the Indian wars that raged on for years. The closest I came to the civil war is the psychological effects it had on my characters if they’d been involved.
Most of the avoidance came from my utter dislike of social studies and US history in school. I liked to learn about people and fashion and customs. Wars and battles and dates never got me interested (much to my father’s disappointment, I might add).
All it would have taken was “Women fought in secret” to get my attention.
And it has.
Already I’m plotting another story. In what little spare time I have I’m researching these women soldiers, and planning what direction to take my story.
For once in my life I’m fascinated about the war for so much more than the ghosts it left behind.