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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|