Calendar of Events

The Widow-Maker – Civil War Women’s Fight with the Pension Office

Ongoing Opportunities

  • March 7 at 2:30 PM

Come to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine on Saturday March 7 at 2:30 PM to hear the rarely told story of women’s battle for pensions following the Civil War. After the Civil War, women were left to care for their veteran husbands, only to be denied their widow’s pension because they were “too independent.” Then the real fight began. Join Dr. Ashley Bowen as she shares the history of these women and the shifting ideas of government, gender, responsibility, and independence in the aftermath of the Civil War.

When soldiers went marching home, there was no support system in place to care for their physical or psychological wounds. Instead, the Pension Office provided varying amounts of financial support to each soldier, and expected the women of the house to handle everything else.

The wives of Civil War soldiers were responsible for the work of nursing their veterans—shaving their veterans, helping them eat, and bathing them—while also taking on many of the responsibilities that defined a nineteenth century father and husband, including manual labor, financial decision making, and farm management.

When their husbands died, many of these women were told they would not receive their widow’s pension. According to the War Department, by caring for their husbands, the women had proven themselves too independent to need financial assistance.

The program begins at 2:30 PM in the Delaplaine Randall Conference Room at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and is included with admission price, FREE for NMCWM members.