Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Brian Luskey

Committee Co-Chair

Jason Phillips

Committee Member

Kimberly Welch


This thesis examines gender relations and the household economy of Harpers Ferry, Virginia (later West Virginia) from 1859 to 1865. Chapter One looks at how the town was organized economically and symbolically around the federal armory and arsenal, which served as the foundation for the town. Chapter Two examines the destruction of the armory and the ways that economic upheaval led to a feminization of male townspeople, who were then subordinated to occupying militaries. In the border town of Harpers Ferry, occupation became an important aspect of gender relations. Chapter Three focuses on how local women used family networks to choose their own status as household dependents and reoriented the economy around the presence of soldiers. Throughout this thesis, townspeople are analyzed as key participants in the events of John Brown's raid and the Civil War. They used ideas about gender to shape their occupation and relationship with soldiers to survive when the town's economy was destroyed.