Northern Women Rally to Lincoln’s Call
After the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter began the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call on April 15, 1861, for 75,000 volunteers to serve for 90 days to end the Southern rebellion. The response was extraordinary, as men throughout the North rushed to their country’s aid. It was not only the men who rallied to Lincoln’s call, however; the women were zealous as well. While the men looked to their guns, the women applied their busy fingers to other matters, such as making underwear, socks and bandages for the soldiers.
A correspondent wrote a letter to the editor of the Lowell Daily Citizen and News suggesting that the women of Lowell should busy themselves like the patriotic women in nearby communities. The editor duly printed that letter, but appended a terse response defending Lowell women. This letter was published by the Lowell Daily Citizen and News (Lowell, Massachusetts) on April 29, 1861:
Mr. Editor: Are the ladies of Lowell to be outdone by their compatriots elsewhere? In Chelsea, Cambridge, Roxbury, and in Boston, committees of women have been formed for soliciting monies in order to purchase flannel to be made up into under-clothing for our volunteers who are commencing upon the perils and hardships of active service. Churches are opened daily where the cloths are cut and apportioned out to the societies for making. At the Church of the Unity—Rev. Mr. Hepworth—much has been done and is being done. The sewing-society of that congregation are daily getting ready a number of bundles containing each one pair of flannel shirts, one pair of drawers, two pairs of socks, linen bandages, lint, plaster, needles, thread, and a compass.
The ladies of Chelsea lately furnished each volunteer from that city with a similar package. The fair sex may thus aid their country’s defenders, who peril life, and save their state, already burdened, a considerable expense.
In Boston, the enthusiasm is immense. A noble emulation stimulates many families. Where, formerly, ennui was kept off by fashionable amusements, now a constant industry prevails, and fair fingers, accustomed to the piano, and to embroidery, stitch soldiers’ flannel.
Let the scholars of our public schools look to their laurels also. In Boston the lads of the High School had contributed money for a splendid flag, but the misses of the Normal School thoughtfully suggested using the means for flannel which they would make up. Their kind offer was accepted, and soon a large quantity of clothing was passed over by them for the use of the M.V.M. [Massachusetts Volunteer Militia—ed.]. Flags are luxuries in these times, when every effort must be made for our imperiled country.
I am confident that only a hint is needed to incite our whole community in this direction. Much has been done, but much more is needed.
The women of Lowell come from patriotic stock—let them not forget the revolutionary matron, who, with her daughters, between sundown and morning, carded, spun and wove the wool, and made up the cloth into pants, in order that an only son might overtake and join Gen. Stark near Bennington.
The suggestions of our correspondent are very well, but it must not be inferred that the women of our city are indifferent to the claims of the common cause upon their sympathies and efforts. Not a few of them have already interested themselves in various ways in behalf of the soldiers and their families. Many have proffered their services, some offering to go [to] the seat of war, if wanted, as nurses.
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