The Sea Captain's Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century

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"When award-winning historian Martha Hodes came upon a collection of family letters, she decided to write the story of Eunice Connolly, an ordinary American woman who led an extraordinary life." "Born white and poor in New England, Eunice worked in the cotton mills and married a carpenter. But a sojourn to the Deep South on the eve of the Civil War left her caught in a divided nation - and in between the men of her own family who fought on opposite sides of the cataclysmic national conflict. Back north, living in near-poverty and fighting off
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The Sea Captain's Wife: A True Story of Love, Race, and War in the Nineteenth Century

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Overview

"When award-winning historian Martha Hodes came upon a collection of family letters, she decided to write the story of Eunice Connolly, an ordinary American woman who led an extraordinary life." "Born white and poor in New England, Eunice worked in the cotton mills and married a carpenter. But a sojourn to the Deep South on the eve of the Civil War left her caught in a divided nation - and in between the men of her own family who fought on opposite sides of the cataclysmic national conflict. Back north, living in near-poverty and fighting off depression, Eunice tried as best she could to follow the conventions of nineteenth-century womanhood, but she would take those conventions only so far. After the war, Eunice, now a widow and the mother of two, fell in love across the color line and chose to make a new home for herself on a faraway West Indian island." "In her travels between New England and the Deep South, and then to the Cayman Islands, Eunice faced despair and loss, romance and serenity, and ultimately profound transformation in her journey from a working-class white woman to a genteel lady in an elite family of color." Eunice told her story in the letters she wrote - whether by candlelight after an arduous day scrubbing laundry in the raw New England winter or resting under the shade of a coconut tree on a bright Caribbean morning. Following every lead in the family papers, Hodes traced Eunice's footsteps, searched the archives, studied the landscape, and met descendants along the way.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hodes reconstructs the intriguing and unusual life of Eunice Richardson Stone Connolly. a mill laborer in mid-19th-century New England who went South with her husband to seek their fortune; homesick, even as her husband fought for the Confederacy, she returned to New Hampshire, where she was reduced to working as a washerwoman. The only thing that brought an impoverished Eunice respectability was her white skin. But then she heard of her husband's death, and in 1869, mystifying some of her relatives, Connolly put that respectability at risk, too, marrying a well-to-do black sea captain from Grand Cayman Island and moving there with him. Hodes, a historian at NYU (White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South), relies on a rich cache of Connolly's letters, which are housed at Duke University. Unfortunately, the letters don't reveal how Connolly met her second husband or explain in depth why she decided to marry him. Hodes's prose, though sometimes a bit affected ("In place of fiction, I offer the craft of history, assisted by the art of speculation"), is lucid and her account is engaging, though for readers steeped in the subject not pathbreaking; what Hodes has to tell us about the 19th century-that race was socially constructed and complicated, for example-is nothing new. 47 b&w illus., 2 maps. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this gem of historical writing and research, Hodes (history, NYU) shows how a 19th-century white, working-class woman coped with the upheavals precipitated by industrialization, immigration, civil war, and racism. Eunice Connolly, born in New England in 1831, sought a marriage that would fulfill her dream of upward mobility and stability. Instead, she found a hardscrabble existence that led her to two dramatic choices. In the first, she abandoned a husband sympathetic to the South (where the couple had moved) to return to New England during the Civil War. In the second, as a war widow, she defied an increasingly racist society to marry a black sea captain and follow him to the West Indies. Ultimately, this marriage brought the status and stability that she sought. Hodes, who won the Allan Nevins Prize for her previous book, White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South, has produced another outstanding work showing the complexities of 19th-century racism. Highly recommended for academic libraries; however, the compelling story and graceful writing will appeal to general readers who enjoy American history.-Linda V. Carlisle, Southern Illinois Univ., Edwardsville Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393052664
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/11/2006
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Martha Hodes, a professor of history at New York University, is the author of White Women, Black Men, which won the Allan Nevins Prize for Literary Distinction. She lives in New York City and Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

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Customer Reviews

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