The Political Work of Northern Women Writers and the Civil War, 1850-1872 / Edition 1

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Chapel Hill, NC, U.S.A. 2000 Hardcover New in New jacket Book First Edition. 348 pgs. New, unread in unpriced dj.

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This volume explores the lives and works of nine Northern women who wrote during the Civil War period, examining the ways in which, through their writing, they engaged in the national debates of the time. Lyde Sizer shows that from the 1850 publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin through Reconstruction, these women, as well as a larger mosaic of lesser-known writers, used their mainstream writings publicly to make sense of war, womanhood, Union, slavery, republicanism, heroism, and death.

Among the authors discussed are Lydia Maria Child, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sara Willis Parton (Fanny Fern), Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth, Mary Abigail Dodge (Gail Hamilton), Louisa May Alcott, Rebecca Harding Davis, and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps. Although direct political or partisan power was denied to women, these writers actively participated in discussions of national issues through their sentimental novels, short stories, essays, poetry, and letters to the editor.

Sizer pays close attention to how these mostly middle-class women attempted to create a "rhetoric of unity," giving common purpose to women despite differences in class, race, and politics. This theme of unity was ultimately deployed to establish a white middle-class standard of womanhood, meant to exclude as well as include.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the Early Republic
Sizer's work will be of interest to those studying the northern intellectual response to antislavery reform; wartime politics; freedom and Reconstruction; race and class; and the late-nineteenth-century suffrage movement.
Matthew Frye Jacobson
A tremendously engaging study of Civil War era gender arrangements and political culture. Sizer renders the political cadences of women's everyday lives with the same skill that she interprets individual literary texts.
Nina Silber
Clearly and insightfully written, the book makes a strong contribution to the literature on the Civil War and helps fill a void on Northern women's Civil War experience.
Library Journal
In 1862 Abraham Lincoln is said to have greeted Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin as "the little lady who started this big war." The story, true or not, suggests that by the mid-19th century women in the United States were able to influence public opinion and act politically through their writing. Sizer (intellectual and social history, Sarah Lawrence Coll.) expands upon her doctoral work to examine this topic in a far-reaching exploration of the social and political impact of women's writings before, during, and after the Civil War. Analyzing the work and lives of nine celebrated women writers, including Stowe, Sara Willis Parton, Rebecca Harding Davis, and Louisa May Alcott, in the context of their attitudes toward the social and political issues of the day, and utilizing a wide variety of primary and secondary sources, she suggests how these writers used their pens to participate in nationally significant debates, shape policy, and expand the domestic sphere that circumscribed their activities. The first monograph specifically addressing the political contribution of the era's women writers, this is recommended for larger academic libraries.--Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
From the Publisher
Engaging and impressively researched. . . . Valuable.

Journal of American History

A thorough study of female assertions of political power through written discourse. Her account is expansive and complex.

Journal of American Studies

Will be of interest to historians and literary critics alike.

American Historical Review

Impressively researched and clearly written.

American Studies

A tremendously engaging study of Civil War era gender arrangements and political culture.

Matthew Frye Jacobson, Yale University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807825549
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 9/18/2000
  • Series: Civil War America Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.59 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Lyde Cullen Sizer teaches U.S. cultural and intellectual history, Civil War history, and women's history at Sarah Lawrence College.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: My Sphere Rounds Out: Northern Women and the Written War 1
Ch. 1 Rowing against Wind and Tide: How Women Wrote 17
Wind and Tide: The Obstacles and Inspiration of Political Work 22
Nine Rowers 30
New England Mothers: Introducing Child, Stowe, and Fern 32
Northern Borders: Introducing Southworth, Harper, and Davis 37
New England Daughters: Introducing Hamilton, Alcott, and Phelps 43
Ch. 2 Raising a Voice: The Civil War Begins in the 1850s 49
Stowe and Southworth: Slavery and the Proper Work of White Women 52
Fern and Oakes: Independent versus Influential Womanhood 57
Child versus Wise and Mason: Speaking for the North 61
Jacobs and Davis: The Web of Racial and Wage Slavery 66
Ch. 3 What Can Woman Do?: The Rhetoric of Unity, 1861-1863 75
What Women Did 77
Leave-Taking and Waiting: Early Stories of Patriotism 84
A Woman-Centered Understanding of War: Delphine P. Baker and Metta V. Victor 90
The Voice of Tribulation Periwinkle: Introducing Women-Nurses 96
Political Work through Moral Suasion: Abolitionists Speak Out 99
Ch. 4 A Woman's Read: Crisis at Midwar 109
Economic Struggle and Wartime Disillusionment 114
To Upheave and Overturn: Gail Hamilton Goes to War 121
Class Is Another War: Fern, Townsend, and Davis 133
Ch. 5 Trying to Find Places: The Question of African American Freedom in the Late War 141
The Context 143
Emancipation Rhetoric and Fanny Kemble's Journal: The War Turns a Corner 144
He Is Every Where: Antislavery at Midwar 147
A Shifting Subject: African American Men 151
What Will We Do with the Negro? Wartime Strategies for Reconstruction 158
Ch. 6 Woman's Part of Glory: Love, Death, and Work in Women's Writing, 1863-1865 167
Woman's Place in War: Women-Nurses 169
Women on the Fictional Battlefront 173
A Place for a Woman: Nurses Make Their Way 181
A Crisis of Faith: An Internal Critique 184
Ch. 7 The Times Which Form History: Writing the War, 1865-1868 193
Writing Women and the War: Transitions 197
Women's Histories: Reinscribing the "Universal" Woman for Posterity 200
Nursing Histories: Women's Authority and Class Conflict 204
A Woman's War: Postwar Novels and Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth's: How He Won Her 216
Ch. 8 Still Waiting: Race and the Politics of Reconstruction 223
Emphasizing Difference: Racial Whiteness in Postwar Fiction 226
An Africanist Presence 231
The Politics of Intermarriage 234
Turning Points 240
Ch. 9 A New Emancipation: Interpreting the War for Tomorrow 245
A Call for Women 248
The "Coming Woman": Alcott and the Woman Question 254
Woman As a Class: Phelps and the Labor Question 263
The Threshold of a New Era: Harper and the Negro Question 270
Conclusion 279
Notes 283
Bibliography 311
Index 333
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