Chances are that a single woman hired as a laundress married quickly after taking the job. In the general population, men outnumbered women, particularly in the frontier west, and, of course, in military camps, the shortage of women was extreme. Soldiers also saw a laundress-wife as a good investment, as she made more in one month than did an unmarried private. Not until a man earned the rank of First Sergeant did the pay become almost equal. The food a wife cooked was most likely better than that served in the barracks dining room. Marriage included the traditional benefit of female companionship and the associated bonuses.

Jennifer J. Lawrence, Soap Suds Row: The Bold Lives of Army Laundresses, 1802-1876 (2016)


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