In this excerpt from the letter of Governor William H. Cabell to the Speaker of the House of Delegates, Hugh Nelson, dated January 28, 1808, the governor singled out several men and two women who deserved pensions. One woman was Anna Maria Lane, to whom the General Assembly granted a pension of $100 a year. Her husband, John Lane, was also a soldier in the American Revolution, but he received a pension of $40 a year because, unlike his wife, he was not disabled by a wound.
Lane, like many other women during the American Revolution, had followed her husband to war. Known as camp followers, a term that to many people suggested that they were prostitutes, most of the women performed a variety of vital tasks. They filled the roles of laundresses, cooks, nurses, and even spies, and in some instances earned money by performing those services and often drew rations, as did the soldiers. During battles, women cared for the sick and carried water to the soldiers, and a few, like Lane, filled in when a male soldier fell. Not much is known about Lane's life, but she dressed “in the garb” and served “with the courage of a soldier.” At the Battle of Germantown, on October 3, 1777, she was wounded in the leg and remained lame for the remainder of her life. Following the war, she and her husband resided in Virginia. At the time of the governor's recommendation to the General Assembly, they resided near Capitol Square, where her husband worked for the Public Guard, a forerunner of the Virginia Capitol Police.
Women contributed to American independence in many other, more traditional ways. They spun, wove, and sewed, creating “homespun” cloth that people wore in place of imported fabrics. They participated in the boycott of English goods, including tea, before and during the war, and they raised money for the troops. With male relatives off at war, many women took over management of farms and plantations or of family businesses.
1. How did Anna Maria Lane participate in the American Revolution?
2. In what ways did women participate in the war?
3. Why did George Washington not like camp followers?
1. Were women necessary to the camps? If they had not been in the camps to provide the services they did, would they have been missed? What would have changed?
2. Women played important roles at home and in the camps during the American Revolution. How did their participation affect the way women were viewed and their expectations after the war?
3. Compare the life and experiences of Anna Maria Lane with those of Margaret Corbin and Mary Hays, two other famous female veterans of the American Revolution. What do their stories have in common?
Treadway, Sandra Gioia. “Anna Maria Lane: An Uncommon Soldier of the American Revolution.” Virginia Cavalcade 37, no. 3 (1988): 134–143.
Danyluk, Kaia K. “Women and the Revolutionary War.” Colonial Williamsburg Interpreter (Fall 1997): 8–13.
Mayer, Holly. Belonging to the Army: Camp Followers and Community during the American Revolution. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996.