Women on the Homefront

quote by Elizabeth Wood Clement

Portraits of Caroline Bowen and Luke FairbanksPhotographs courtesy of Grant Fairbanks and Dorothy Lilla (smith) Cowden.


Clement was only one of hundreds of Vermont women who worked within their communities to support the war effort. Soldiers’ relief or aid societies were organized by women using the same networks they developed to support their churches and local charities. The aid societies successfully raised money and sewed thousands of blankets, quilts, and articles of clothing to send off to the soldiers. The U.S. Sanitary Commission, which was staffed by women, operated in many of the military’s general hospitals and distributed the materials.

Mrs. Luke B. Fairbanks, formerly Caroline Bowen of Brandon, was eighteen years old when she sewed this quilt. Her husband, Luke Fairbanks, had just gone back to war after spending time at home recuperating from wounds. They had married on Christmas Day in 1863 while he was on leave. One can imagine the fears and concerns of the young newlywed as she quilted and wrote the various Bible passages. This quilt is a rare survivor of the estimated 250,000 such pieces that were made by women and sent to soldiers.

Caroline Bowen of Brandon married Luke Fairbanks of Bethel on December 25, 1863. Fairbanks was a sergeant in Company F, 3rd Vermont Regiment when these photographs were taken in late 1862. He eventually rose to the rank of captain before he mustered
out in 1865.

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