York Town Square

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Revolutionary War put intense pressure on York County women

Noted York, Pa., artist J. Horace Rudy perhaps sentimentalizes domestic life during the American Revolution in this early-20th century artwork. Also of interest: Where was Thomas Jefferson when Congress met in York? and Who were these congressional visitors to York Town, anyway? and Henry Laurens kept Congress together in Valley Forge winter.

Genealogists should immerse themselves in history to understand how the family members they’re researching worked and lived.
I made that point to a receptive audience at a recent meeting of the Susquehanna Trail Genealogy Club.
I explained how during the American Revolution – using York County as an example – that women held down the home front with men away at war. That’s true in most wars, but the women in York in 1777-78 had to care for the home front in a town occupied by dozens of needy and demanding visitors from Philadelphia… .

Continental Congress, chased from Philadelphia, made great demands on the local people who were themselves dealing with wartime scarcities and high prices. Letters written by these visiting delegates often showed their distaste for life in York.
The town had to play host to more than 64 lawmakers. Some had aides and servants. Continental Army troops in varying numbers occupied York. Non-elected government officials who worked for the government also needed accommodations. Late in the war, the British POW camp outside of York – Camp Security – also put pressure on area residents, who feared that the captives, roaming free on parole, were corrupting the town.
Given this, J. Horace Rudy’s drawing above is a bit naive. The men often were away, and the roaring fire did little to combat the winter chill in the primitive homes of the day.
Life for women was made up of endless chores.
I pointed the genealogists to a narrative of what one young New England woman did in a day, in a time of peace. Thus, the value of reading history.
Here’s that narrative detailing just one day’s work from Sid Moody’s ” ’76, ‘The World Turned Upside Down,’ ” which I included in my “Nine Months in York Town.”

‘Fix’d gown for Prude – Mend Mother’s Ridinghood – Spun short thread … Carded tow – Spun linen – Worked on Cheesebasket – Hatchel’d flax with Hannah … Pleated and ironed – Read a Sermon of Dodridge’s – Spooled a piece – Milked the cows – Spun line, did 50 knots – Made a Broom of Guinea wheat straw – Spun thread to whiten – Set a Red dye … I carded two pounds of whole wool … Spun harness twine – Scoured the pewter.’

Also of interest:
World War II propaganda posters raised spirits, women’s wrath
All American Revolution posts from the start.