U.S. Women and the War

For American women as much as for American men, news of the outbreak of war with Mexico was greeted with a burst of patriotic enthusiasm. In many states, women formed committees that organized banquets, dances, and parades for newly created volunteer regiments. Many sewed flags and banners, quilts, and blankets for the men of their community who had enlisted and would soon be departing for Mexico.

Not all women, however, supported the war. In New England, the center for organized opposition to the conflict, female members of abolitionist societies that condemned the acquisition of any territory that would be used to expand the slave empire were particularly outspoken critics of the invasion of Mexico. Margaret Fuller, then living in Europe as a correspondent and editorialist for Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, became a scathing critic of President Polk, whom she held responsible for waging what she believed to be an unjust war to extend slavery.

A few women played active roles in support of the war. Jane McManus Storms Cazneau, a journalist for the New York Sun and the Democratic Review, became a strong proponent of Manifest Destiny, even advocated the acquisition of all of Mexico. She witnessed Winfield Scott's capture of Vera Cruz in March 1847, becoming the first female war correspondent in U.S. history. Ann Chase, the Irish-born wife of the U.S. consul in Tampico, passed along critical secrets and information about Mexican troop movements. Perhaps the most famous woman to emerge during the war was Sarah Borginnis, who had accompanied her husband to Mexico as a laundress with the Missouri Seventh Infantry. When the war began she was working as a cook at Fort Texas, later renamed Fort Brown. During the bombardment of the fort her courage came to the attention of the press, who nicknamed her the "Heroine of Fort Brown." Later known as "the Great Western" she traveled with Taylor's army as a nurse and cook, and participated in the Battle of Buena Vista.

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