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Herself a descendant of generations of southern "ladies," Civil War historian Faust (Univ. of Penn.) sought to write a book of scholarly rigor that also could have been read by her deceased mother and grandmothers. She succeeds by eschewing an overarching—and possibly limiting—political or psychological theory and relying on the voices of Confederate women themselves. Through diaries of more than 500 Lizzies, Nellies, and Lucys (along with a broad sampling of Confederate popular culture), Faust details how well-bred Confederate women aimed to maintain their antebellum social standing while redefining their place as public members of society and watching a war reshape the culture around them. They attempted to become useful Confederate patriots without leaving the "feminine sphere," as one woman put it in a letter to the New Orleans Daily Picayune. They learned degrading physical tasks like weaving cloth and dyemaking, but only against their faraway husbands' will and their own misgivings. They entered the work force as hospital matrons, treasury clerks, and teachers, but they were advised to seek not "equality" but "equivalence" by an author taking on the question of nature vs. nurture in gender differences. Even their art, which blossomed during the war, radiated equivocation. A bestselling Confederate novel, Augusta Jane Evans's Macaria; or, the Altars of Sacrifice (1864) eventually upheld the tradition of "Womanly Usefulness" but did so through a heroine whose embrace of both the domestic and public spheres skirted dangerously close to androgyny. These women, Faust claims, confronted the home front while upholding an "ambiguous tradition of seemingly contradictory strength and frailty."
Though repetitive at times in its inclusiveness, this is a fine, caring social history that also offers surprising insights into the development of the southern American woman's consciousness.
Among the finest of recent histories of American women.
Bertram Wyatt-Brown, New York Review of Books
A dramatically revealing study of how the war altered these women's identities.
Josephine Humphreys, New York Times Book Review
Faust makes a major contribution to both Civil War historiography and women's studies in this outstanding analysis.
It is one of the most admirable recent volumes of American social history.
A wonderfully researched chronicle of a largely unexamined social elite that enriches the fields of Civil War and women's studies.
|Introduction : all the relations of life||3|
|Ch. 1||What shall we do? : women confront the crisis||9|
|Ch. 2||A world of femininity : changed households and changing lives||30|
|Ch. 3||Enemies in our households : Confederate women and slavery||53|
|Ch. 4||We must go to work, too||80|
|Ch. 5||We little knew : husbands and wives||114|
|Ch. 6||To be an old maid : single women, courtship, and desire||139|
|Ch. 7||An imaginary life : reading and writing||153|
|Ch. 8||Though thou slay us : women and religion||179|
|Ch. 9||To relieve my bottled wrath : Confederate women and Yankee men||196|
|Ch. 10||If I were once released : the garb of gender||220|
|Ch. 11||Sick and tired of this horrid war : patriotism, sacrifice, and self-interest||234|
|Epilogue : we shall never ... be the same||248|
|Afterword : the burden of southern history reconsidered||255|
Posted April 28, 2008
While I did not get the most pleasure out of reading this book, I did find that it taught be a lot about Confederate Women during the Civil War. Gathering information from 500 Confederate Women, Faust goes into great detail about how they were involved politically, socially, and economically in the Civil War. This book acknowledges that women did contribute to the war effort in more ways than most think. While it took me awhile to read by the end I was happy that I read it because I really did learn a lot about how the women were involved. If I were a professor I would use this book because it would really allow students to grasp that the women were critical to the survival of the economic structure of the South.
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Posted March 8, 2008
Mothers of Invention is a must for anyone who has an intrest in the South during the Civil War. Faust has done an amazing job analyzing the life of 500 elite southern women and has made an insightful contribution to women's studies.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 4, 2008
Faust did a good job of describing women during the Civil War. She also provided many examples of how women supported the cause of the war in the beginning and why they resented the war as the war progressed. If I were a professor, I would use this book for the reason above. Also because it shows that women were not passive during the war. I learn quite a lot from this book about southern women and some aspects of the civil war itself.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.