Women In Uniform

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Adapted by Barb Whelan


It is virtually impossible to say with certainty that there were no women in the original ranks of the War of 1812.  The original female soldier had to have been ‘discovered’, to have documentation available about her.  We know there were women who served in the ranks in the American Civil War. We can only speculate whether there were women in the ranks during the war of 1812. There can be no possible documentation for the one hundred percent successful gender disguised woman soldier until either the war ended, she was repatriated or she was killed.


With more women entering the hobby and choosing to portray soldiers, it seems logical to have a set of standards to follow. Some women have very good impressions and some have terrible impressions.  A set of standards helps both the sponsors of events and the women who wish to portray soldiers to have certain common ideas in mind as to authenticity and what should be expected of any given individual. 




a)      Basic uniform:  Same as men’s, including accouterments and brogans.  Having your barracks jacket and redcoat a bit large will help hide obvious female characteristics.

b)      Binder?:  Unless you are completely flat chested this is a good idea.  A sports bra is better than most bras, but still does not give the kind of support or effect that is desirable.  (For a pattern, see:http://www.geocities.com/womansoldier/guidelines1.html?200617)

c)      Hair:  Cut short, or in such a way that the long hair is pulled well up.  Longer hair should be kept hidden completely when camp is open to the public. 





a)      Drill, chores, parades, guard duty, picket duty, etc:  NEVER REFUSE to do your duty or detail as a soldier without very good reason AND permission from your commanding officer.  Being a female does not excuse you from any of the tasks performed by your fellow soldiers.  By performing the same work, duty, and drills as your male counterparts, you gain their respect. Failure to do your part can result in being pointed out as a poor example of a female soldier and can make it harder for the next woman who wants to portray a soldier.  Remember!  You are setting the standard, Poor examples are remembered far longer than good ones.

b)      Discretion.  While in the field or in camp you may face situations that require mature handling.  If, for example, you find yourself in lines of men who need to give in to the call of nature, Don’t make a big deal about it.  Most of those soldiers out there don’t know that you are a woman and are only thinking one thing.  Relief.  Respect their privacy and you will be respected. 

c)      Voice:  Keep your voice tone low and deep, if that is impossible, try not to speak too often when you do find it necessary to speak

d)      Personal Kit.  Look after your own.  Find out how to clean your musket, roll your own cartridges and look after your own kit.  Other soldiers are usually very willing to show new members the ropes, but they do expect you to learn how to do it yourself.

e)      Hydration:  Women may have naturally lower blood pressure and be more susceptible to heat illness than are men.  It is absolutely necessary to stay hydrated.  An absolute minimum of 2 litres of water must be consumed each day.  During moderate activity, requirement is 3-5 litres.  If it is hot, you require much more.  Caffeine, alcohol and protein increase water losses.  If it’s been more than 3-4 hours since you peed, you’re not drinking enough.


EXERCISE!! You will be marching, sometimes for miles, over various terrain, in various weather and carrying a musket, wearing a wool uniform and brogans.  Lifting weights, walking, hiking, upper and lower body exercises and doing back strengthening exercises can help you endure the parades, drill, tacticals and battles without wimping out.  Most women find that targeted upper body strength training is helpful, and practically necessary.


Some things that ‘should’ be obvious but may not be:



No “normal” female make-up including:  eye shadow, blush, rouge, eyeliner, lipstick,

No recognizable female jewelry, including:  earrings, bracelets, wristwatches, modern rings (wedding bands can be worn), necklaces, modern eyeglasses, (including sunglasses).

No Long nails,

No painted nails


Let’s face it.  If you want to get out and ‘play’ with ‘the boys’, you should look and act like ‘one of the boys’.  Save the “female stuff” for when it’s appropriate – and the battlefield is definitely not the place.


(Parts of this were adapted from Women in Uniform as Civil War Soldiers by Wendy A. King)

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