By Contributing Writer, Terry Covey
If you’re anything like me, with politics ranking somewhere behind going to the dentist, you might be surprised to find that supporting our government or our politicians doesn’t always mean that we become versed in the bureaucratic lingo of the day, nor that we even know what bills are up on the docket. We can actually do a great job from our own place of duty – the home.
Women’s Political Influence in History
Our family’s political ‘history’ has been in the avenue of Civil War reenacting for 12 years. My daughter’s love for history began our research into state’s rights, the slavery issue, and our country’s political issues during those turbulent times.
Because of our hobby, we have learned much about politics and government, and also many details of a woman’s role during that era. This knowledge gives us strength in our own era, to stand strong in our feminine roles in this age of “liberation”.
The typical view of the day during the mid-1800s was that women were frail and lacked the intelligence to handle the political issues of the day. Women were to be protected as “the weaker vessel”, following the Biblical instruction, and that included politics.
Now before you get your shackles up, realize that I am not saying that I agree with the intelligent and frail part! But in my home, the ‘weaker vessel’ part is often true! There are times when my ‘momma’ instincts and protective nature has made me incapable of handling some news concerning the welfare or freedom of Christians, or of homeschooling families, or of the unborn.
Having my husband take in the information or take on the battle, gives me time to settle down to do my job as wife and mother without the stress of worrying about the future. I can feel secure knowing that my husband is carrying that weight – and this can be a great relief to my already taxed brain! Yet, it in no way means that I cannot understand the issues at hand, nor offer sound ideas and opinions, simply that Scripture offers us that protection from having to take it on singlehandedly. I thank God for my man’s big shoulders!
History reveals a very different view of women in politics than our current culture. Women in history were less outwardly political, yet more influential behind the scenes in the course of government and political decisions in history, more often ably supporting their husbands from the home front.
The Woman Behind the General
One such husband who appreciated the support of his wife was Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. His tender letters to his wife, Anna, whom he called “my beloved esposita” can be read in the book, Beloved Bride, by Bill Potter. (All quotes are taken from this book, emphasis added. Esposo and esposa = spouse, esposita = little wife.)
Drink deeply of these words penned from a man strengthened by his wife.
One can only imagine the life-giving strength that his supportive and doting wife gave him as he strained in the daily life of war for over two years, from April, 1861 to his death on May 10, 1863.
Aug. or Sept., 1861 – near Manassas – Yesterday I received two letters from one little jewel of mine at Cottage Home, and I am just going to read them over and over again and answer. First, in reference to coming to see your esposo, what would you do for privacy in camp?
I tell you there are more inconveniences attending camp life for a lady than little pet is aware of; and worst of all is the danger you might encounter in such a trip, as the cars are so crowded with soldiers …..Little one can come on with the first good opportunity, if she is willing to bear the unexpected occurrences of war.
I know not one day what will take place the next, but I do know that I am your doting esposo. Pg. 62
In Stonewall’s letters to his “Esposita” we read of Anna’s faithful influence on this famous general. A man is greatly affected and changed by the woman who stands behind him, and Stonewall wrote thousands of words describing his security in his wife’s love and support.
Sept. 24, 1861 – I am going to write a letter to my darling pet esposita, who paid me such a sweet visit, and whose dear face I can still see, though she is way down in the Old North State. Pg. 65
Oct. 20, 1862 – Don’t’ send any more socks, as the kind ladies have given me more than I could probably wear out in two years. God, through kind friends, is showering blessings upon me….…Let the soldiers have all your blankets.……Don’t trouble yourself about representations that are made of your husband. These things are earthly and transitory. There are real and glorious blessings, I trust, in reserve for us beyond this life.……I appreciate the loving interest that prompted such a desire in my precious darling….
Should I be prevented from going to see my precious little wife, and mother should grow worse, I wish you to remain with her. In addition to the comfort it would give her, it would also gratify me to know that she was comforted by your being with her……. Do not send me any more handkerchiefs, socks, or gloves, as I trust I have enough to last until peace. Pg. 110
General Jackson’s confidence in the woman he left behind must have affected his ability to stay composed for the decisions required of a general. Anna’s concern and love for her husband helped to balance his perspective on life and the world around him. It calmed him during the storms. And he reciprocated by calming her concerns during his trying times in battle.
Aug. 5, 1861 – (after seeing that the General’s Beauregard and Johnston received credit for the victory at Manassas, rather than Stonewall, he writes) – As you think your papers do not notice me enough, I send a specimen, which you will see from the upper part of the paper is a leader. My darling, never distrust God, who doeth all things well. In due time He will make manifest all His pleasure, which is all His people should desire. You must not be concerned at seeing other parts of the army lauded, and my brigade not mentioned. “Truth is mighty and will prevail.” Pg. 59
Not “Just a Wife”
The current trend in our culture is to consider that a woman who stays home to raise her family is “just a wife”. But being a wife can and should be much more than one facet. She can learn much about the world around her, be involved in her community, and manage her home well, which adds to her husband’s resources, knowledge, and confidence in which to be a leader in their community.
A wife supports her husband in countless ways so he can attend to his business, enabling him to become known as an integral part of his workplace and community. He isn’t burdened by the worries that his home and family are needing his constant attention. Scripture commends the Proverbs 31 wife in verse 23 when it speaks of her husband – that “he is known in the gates”. The following quotes revealed Stonewall’s trust in his “business little woman” to hold down their home fort.
May 30, 1861 – I am very thankful to an ever-kind Providence for enabling you so satisfactorily to arrange our home matters. I just love my business little woman. Let Mr. Tebbs have the horse and rockaway at his own price; and if he is not able to pay for them, you may give them to him, as he is a minister of the Gospel….. pg. 42
Nov. 9, 1861 – I send you a check for $1000, which I wish invested in Confederate bonds…..You had better not sell your coupons from the bonds, as I understand they are paid in gold, but let the Confederacy keep the gold. Citizens should not receive a cent of gold from the government when it is so scarce. Pg. 74-75
A wife can offer input and advice when her man’s thoughts are overloaded and he doesn’t have the time or energy to think a new thought. When he needs fresh perspective, a back rub, or a calm home in which to make decisions. We wives actually have more power in doing these simple tasks than we imagine.
I just had to add this next quote! Here is General Jackson, a devoted husband and father, giving child training tips even from the battlefront.
Jan. 17, 1862 – I am gratified at hearing that you have commenced disciplining the baby. Now be careful, and don’t let her conquer you..….I am still thinking and thinking about that baby, and do want to see her. Can’t you send her to me by express! There is an express line all the way to Guiney’s.
I am glad to hear that she sleeps well at night, and doesn’t disturb her mother..…..I do hope she will get over her fear of strangers. If, before strangers take her, you would give them something to please her, and thus make her have pleasant associations with them, and seeing them frequently, I trust she would lost her timidity.
It is gratifying that she is growing so well, and I am thankful she is so bright and knowing. I do wish I could see her funny little ways, and hear her “squeal out with delight” at seeing the little chickens. I am sometimes afraid that you will make such an idol of that baby that God will take her from us. Are you not afraid of it? Kiss her for her father. Pg. 128
Feb. 7, 1863 – If you could hear me talking to my esposa in the mornings and evenings, it would make you laugh, I’m sure. It is funny the way I talk to her when she is hundreds of miles away….. pg. 132
Feb. 14, 1863 – Your delightful letter of six pages received a welcome reception this evening. Pg. 133
March 14, 1863 – Do you remember when my little wife used to come up to my headquarters in Winchester and talk with her esposo? I would love to see her sunny face peering into my room again….. pg. 135
(Stonewall hadn’t seen his baby in her five months of life. He would see her for the first time only three weeks before his death.)
April 18, 1863 – I am beginning to look for my darling and my baby. I shouldn’t be surprised to hear at any time that they were coming, and I tell you there would be one delighted man. Last night I dreamed that my little wife…… pg. 136
On May 2nd, Stonewall was hit three times by friendly fire, causing his arm to be amputated and later, to contract pneumonia. He died on May 10th with his wife at his side, as he spoke the words, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”
After Stonewall’s death, Anna made it her purpose to preserve and honor her husband’s character and legacy.
So, even without an affinity for politics, like Anna Jackson, you can learn what your husband needs as you support and encourage him in his role as leader in your home, and even in your community. And the old saying rings true again – that behind every great man is a good woman.
Will you be this kind of woman for your man?
…but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. 1 Peter 3:4-6