Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South

Overview

In this richly detailed and imaginatively researched study, Victoria Bynum investigates "unruly" women in central North Carolina before and during the Civil War. Analyzing the complex and interrelated impact of gender, race, class, and region on the lives of black and white women, she shows how their diverse experiences and behavior reflected and influenced the changing social order and political economy of the state and region. Her work expands our knowledge of black and white women by studying them outside the ...
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Overview

In this richly detailed and imaginatively researched study, Victoria Bynum investigates "unruly" women in central North Carolina before and during the Civil War. Analyzing the complex and interrelated impact of gender, race, class, and region on the lives of black and white women, she shows how their diverse experiences and behavior reflected and influenced the changing social order and political economy of the state and region. Her work expands our knowledge of black and white women by studying them outside the plantation setting. Bynum searched local and state court records, public documents, and manuscript collections to locate and document the lives of these otherwise ordinary, obscure women. Some appeared in court as abused, sometimes abusive, wives, as victims and sometimes perpetrators of violent assaults, or as participants in illicit, interracial relationships. During the Civil War, women frequently were cited for theft, trespassing, or rioting, usually in an effort to gain goods made scarce by war. Some women were charged with harboring evaders or deserters of the Confederacy, an act that reflected their conviction that the Confederacy was destroying them. These politically powerless unruly women threatened to disrupt the underlying social structure of the Old South, which depended upon the services and cooperation of all women. Bynum examines the effects of women's social and sexual behavior on the dominant society and shows the ways in which power flowed between the private and public spheres. Whether wives or unmarried, enslaved or free, women were active agents of the society's ordering and dissolution.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A sophisticated but lively account . . . of a subset of women whose experiences reflect importantly on the nature of southern society.

Choice

A fascinating and carefully argued interpretation of southern women.

Journal of American History

A powerful exposé of the seamy aspects of antebellum southern society.

American Historical Review

[An] illuminating and thoughtful book.

Southern Cultures

A welcome and ambitious study.

Journal of the History of Sexuality

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807820162
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 5/18/1992
  • Series: Gender and American Culture Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 250
  • Lexile: 1620L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.38 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Victoria E. Bynum is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of history at Texas State University, San Marcos. She is author of The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies and The Free State of Jones: Mississippi's Longest Civil War.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Race, Class, and Gender in Three Piedmont Counties 15
2 White Womanhood, Black Womanhood: Ideals and Realities in a Piedmont Slaveholding Society 35
3 The Limits of Paternalism: Property, Divorce, and Domestic Relations 59
4 Punishing Deviant Women: The State as Patriarch 88
5 The Struggle to Survive: The Lives of Slave, Free Black, and Poor White Women during the Civil War 111
6 "The Women Is as Bad as the Men": Women's Participation in the Inner Civil War 130
Epilogue 151
Notes 159
Bibliography 203
Index 225
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