Monday, April 30, 2018

Review: Gunpowder Girls by Tanya Anderson

Gunpowder Girls: The True Stories of Three Civil War Tragedies
The US Civil War is not my forte - so apart from a couple of books, this, for me was a good and unique introduction into both Union & Confederate women.

Author Tanya Anderson was looking to focus on the role of women in the Civil War but was looking for a point of difference - In "Gunpowder Girls" she has achieved that in exploring briefly the role of women and young girls working in the arsenals - making the gun cartridges. But again, the author further narrows her purview to focus on three separate tragedies, all within a two years time frame, all of which had heavy losses of life, mainly women and young girls.

Covering three tragedies - at the Allegheny Arsenal, the Confederate States Laboratory and the Washington Arsenal, Anderson gives us a glimpse into the dangerous working conditions of these often poor, single immigrant women, and how a freak accident or ill-thought out action can have tragic consequences.

The clincher for me was that despite the investigations that followed, and other accidents (both before and after), nothing was really done to improve the working conditions and protect this vulnerable group. Even more alarming was that the families of these women received no form of compensation, except that which was often raised by their own communities or work colleagues.

This was well written and researched, with a good selection of location maps and images, and descriptions to give life to the times and working conditions of those who working in the arsenals.

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