Category Archives: Women

Rose O’Neal Greenhow

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During the Civil War time period, there were many prominent figures who played a key part in the outcome of the war.  Many are highlighted in our history books for their acts of heroism, leadership, and defining the history of the United States.  One person who had a significant role during the Civil War was a woman named Rose O’Neal Greenhow.  She is most famously known for being a spy for the Confederate Army.

Rose O’Neal Greenhow was born in Maryland during the early 1800’s (historians believe either 1813 or 1814).  Her parents both died when she was young, and Rose went to live with her aunt in Washington, DC.  Rose and her sisters adjusted well to life in Washington, and became acquainted with many prominent people. 

In 1835, Rose was married to Dr. Robert Greenhow, Jr.  Robert worked for the U.S. Department of State.  As a young couple, they enjoyed the social life that Washington, DC offered.  Eventually, they had four daughters.  Due to Robert’s work with the State Department, the family moved around a few times.  They first moved to Mexico City, Mexico then to San Francisco, California.  In 1854, Robert died while in San Francisco, and Rose moved back to the Washington, DC area.

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Women’s Roles During the War

When a person thinks about the soldiers or important roles that people had during the Civil War time period, they probably don’t think of the roles that women played or women on the battlefields.  However, lots of women from both sides of the country joined their perspective army and many more women had very important roles of leadership or support.

More than four hundred women disguised themselves as men and joined either the Confederate army or Union army.  There were several reasons why they decided to make that choice.  Some women wanted to fight for what they believed in, and since women were not allowed to join the military, a disguise was their only option.  Others disguised themselves as men in order to join the military because of the money they could earn.  A soldier could make approximately $13.00 per month, and since that was more money than women could make in most other jobs, they would join the fighting forces.  Other women also joined the military for the adventure and purpose that the fighting served.  Some women kept their secret long after the end of the Civil War, and some even kept their secret until death.

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