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

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

by Lyde Cullen Sizer
     
 

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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,

Overview

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.

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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807860984
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
06/19/2003
Series:
Civil War America
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Lexile:
1440L (what's this?)
File size:
3 MB

What People are saying about this

Nina Silber
Clearly and insightfully written…Helps fill a void on Northern women's Civil War experience.
From the Publisher
Lyde Sizer shows us how the war transformed women's lives. 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.—Nina Silber, Boston University

Sizer's book is a thorough study of female assertions of political power through written discourse. Her account is expansive and complex.—Journal of American Studies

A far-reaching exploration of the social and political impact of women's writings before, during, and after the Civil War. . . . The first monograph specifically addressing the political contribution of the era's women writers.—Library Journal

Engaging and impressively researched. . . . Valuable: it situates some familiar and unfamiliar authors in an illuminating historical context, and it identifies productive areas for further study.—Journal of American History

In this impressively researched and clearly written study, Sizer analyzes the ways in which northern women writers used their writing . . . to respond to and potentially affect the public understanding of the national crisis of the Civil War . . . . The chief strength of Sizer's book is its detailed analysis of how one of the most cataclysmic events of American history affected the lives and careers of women writers as well as other American women.—American Studies

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. Here is a book that adds wonderful dimension to our understanding of the public sphere, civic life, allegiance, dissent, and war itself.—Matthew Frye Jacobson, Yale University

In examining the ways in which Northern women wrote about the Civil War,

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. This study also will prove useful to scholars of Sizer's chosen authors, both for detailed perspectives on their wartime literary production and for background on their writing and activism.—Journal of the Early Republic

A thorough and nuanced exploration of these authors' wartime writing. It will be of interest to historians and literary critics alike.—American Historical Review

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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