View single post by CleburneFan
 Posted: Sun Mar 30th, 2008 01:36 am
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Joined: Mon Oct 30th, 2006
Location: Florida USA
Posts: 1021

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Here's one I'd suggest to women who are interested in the Civil War, but I doubt many men would find it interesting unless they might be writing a novel about the war. It is Drew Gilpin Faust's  Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War.

This books deals mainly with women of the plantation elite and what became of the world as they knew it and understood it when the war broke out.  While I thought women of lower classes would be discussed too, but they are brought into the book only sporadically.

 One reason may be that the wealthy women were educated and conducted a massive correspondence with their sons and husbands, brothers and fathers at war and their other female family members. They also kept diaries and journals even though some felt such an introverted activity was self-indulgent even while it was comforting too. 

All this writing left behind a considerable amount of material for primary sources about how these women adapted, suffered, mourned and surmounted the multitude of frustrations they faced daily. Their problems only deepened as the war dragged on. changing their lives in every way.  

The book is detailed and thorough, but one main theme runs throughout the book and that is of betrayal. Why? Because these elite women were raised to believe they were dependent, delicate, feminine creatures who needed the protection of males. In return for the protection, the men would make all the decisions, manage the slaves, run businesses, take care of daily economics, etc. Women needed only to be gracious, loving, faithful and charming. 

The betrayal came when all these fine, protective gentlemen left for the glory of war thrusting their wives, sisters, mothers and daughters into roles of responsibilty they were ill-equipped to handle. Often that included a level of physical labor unseemly for women of the upper classes.  Even childcare and meal preparation were unknown to them, formerly the purview of slaves. But slaves often ran away or rebelled against women's authority. Male slaves felt only other men could order them around.

As the war ground on women's sense of betrayal, inadequacy, anger, anxiety and disillusionment increased, even loss of belief in The Cause.

This book was a revealing examination of the women the gallant officers and soldiers left behind and the very different war-- a war with cultural change and unwelcome new female expectations on the home front in the South. It gives the reader a new perspective on the Civil War. What a book!

Last edited on Sun Mar 30th, 2008 01:40 am by CleburneFan

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