The Proposal for a British "Female Corps" of Soldiers during the American Revolutionary War

When the French, the Spanish, the Dutch, and the Mysoreans entered the conflict for their own reasons, the American Revolutionary War became a worldwide conflict that stretched as far as India and Senegal. During that time, the French dusted off plans for an amphibious invasion of Britain. To defend against that possibility, the British prepared militia forces that would be mobilized in the event of a French landing.

That militia consisted entirely of men.

This distressed a woman writing pseudonymously as "Thalestris" in the Morning Post in July of 1778. Jim Piecuch writes in the Journal of the American Revolution:

Evidently Thalestris had given a great deal of consideration to the specific elements of her women’s corps. She proposed that the enlisted ranks be recruited from “every stout, well-made woman, measuring six foot, in London, and different parts of the country.” Once “formed in regiments, and habited en militaire, they would make as noble, and formidable an appearance as the Grenadiers.” The officers “of the female army, should consist of persons of all sizes, that every one might be allowed to serve in some capacity or other; a consideration, apparently in favour of myself, being but five feet three and half.” Thalestris did not intend to allow her short stature to deprive her of the opportunity to perform military service.[7]
The women’s corps, the writer declared, might be “equally successful” in battle as the most famous existing regiments. She added facetiously that their enemies might be “struck with wonder and admiration at the dazzling sight” of female soldiers, and that there was no “nation so savage, but would yield their arms, and acknowledge the power of all conquering beauty.”

Some historians think that the letter is actually a work of satire rather than a serious proposal.

Image: actress Charlotte Walpole dressed as a soldier for a play.

Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"The Proposal for a British "Female Corps" of Soldiers during the American Revolutionary War"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More