Although most people associate the Civil War with its innumerable male participants, many brave women also found ways to serve.
For this entry in the Women of Action series, Cordell has drawn together brief biographies of women both white and black who served in a variety of roles during the war. All of them defied gender expectations of their time but a few of them especially so. The first section describes five women who dressed as men and served as soldiers. In disguise as a man, Sarah Emma Edmonds was both soldier and spy. After deserting due to ill health, she resumed her female identity and worked as a nurse until war’s end. In addition to her more familiar role as a rescuer of slaves, Harriet Tubman also served as a spy for the Union. Mary Jane Richards, who was biracial, lived with white Union spy Elizabeth Van Lew in Richmond and at great personal peril worked in the Confederate White House, where she seemed almost invisible to the white inhabitants, giving her access to important records and conversations. Harriet Ann Jacobs, a freed slave, provided humanitarian relief to black “contrabands” who fled, impoverished and hungry, to Washington, D.C. The biographies include photos of some of the women and provide a fascinating and engaging look at their activities, motivations, trials, and later lives. Excellent, detailed backmatter adds to the volume’s usefulness.
A solid resource. (Nonfiction. 11-18)