Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War

Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War

by Elizabeth D. Leonard
     
 

In Yankee women: Gender Battles in the Civil War, Elizabeth Leonard portrays the multiple ways in which women dedicated themselves to the Union. By delving deeply into the lives of three women - Sophronia Bucklin, Annie Wittenmyer, and Mary Walker - Leonard brings to life the daily manifestations of women's wartime service. Bucklin traveled to the frontline hospitals…  See more details below

Overview

In Yankee women: Gender Battles in the Civil War, Elizabeth Leonard portrays the multiple ways in which women dedicated themselves to the Union. By delving deeply into the lives of three women - Sophronia Bucklin, Annie Wittenmyer, and Mary Walker - Leonard brings to life the daily manifestations of women's wartime service. Bucklin traveled to the frontline hospitals to nurse the wounded and ill, bearing the hardships along with the men. Wittenmyer extended her antebellum charitable activities to organizing committees to supply goods for the troops in Iowa, setting up orphanages for the children of Union soldiers, and creating and managing special diet kitchens for the sick soldiers. Mary Walker forms her own unique category. A feminist and dress reformer, she became the only woman to sign a contract as a doctor for the Union forces. In hospitals and at the battlefront, she tended the wounded in her capacity as a physician and even endured imprisonment as a spy. In their service to the Union, these women faced not only the normal privations of war but also other challenges that thwarted many of their efforts. Bucklin was more daring than some nurses in confronting those in charge if she felt she was being prevented from doing what was needed for the soldiers under her care. In her memoir, she recounted the frictions between the men and women supposedly toiling for a unified purpose. Wittenmyer, like other women in soldiers' aid, also had to stand up to male challengers. When the governor of Iowa appointed a male-dominated, state sanitary commission in direct conflict with her own Keokuk Ladies' Aid Society, Wittenmyer and the women who worked with her fought successfully to keep their organization afloat and get the recognition they deserved. Walker struggled throughout most of the war to be acknowledged as a physician and to receive a surgeon's appointment. Her steadfast will prevailed in getting her a contract but not a commission, and even her contract could

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Victorian life, as we're reminded by Leonard, a history professor at Colby College in Maine, delineated gender spheres: the home for women and the rest of the world for men. The Civil War challenged this construction as women created new places for themselves. Yankee Sophronia Bucklin was a frontline nurse who was self-confident enough to question the authority of army surgeons, and Annie Wittenmeyer organized supplies for hospitals. Mary Walker was the only woman doctor in the Union Army--and served wearing bloomers. Postwar accounts reintegrated the contributions of these women, writes Leonard, into conventional patterns ``to foster a return of middle-class gender arrangements to their status quo antebellum.'' But nothing could take away Mary Walker's hard-won Congressional Medal of Honor. A thoughtful and original study. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Dr. Mary E. Walker wore bloomers, scandalized bureaucrats, and fought to be commissioned a surgeon in the Union Army. Sophronia Bucklin left her home and family upstate New York to become a battlefield nurse. Annie Wittenmyer coordinated Iowa's military relief supplies and later organized special diet kitchens for wounded soldiers, saving many lives. All three women pushed beyond prevailing Victorian antebellum mores to make meaningful contributions to the Civil War. Leonard (history, Colby Coll.) examines their lives and struggles against a male-dominated society that insisted a woman's place was in the home, not on the battlefield or in the hospital. She highlights one battle behind the war: the fight for professional recognition-that is, compensation and acknowledgment of real contributions-waged by these and many other women, some of whom sacrificed as much as the soldiers they tended. A powerful and valuable addition to larger public library history collections.-Nancy L. Whitfield, Meriden P.L., Ct.
William Beatty
Leonard uses the careers of three women to illustrate gender struggles both during and after the Civil War. That of Sophronia Bucklin, a nurse, shows how a woman was able to work within a slightly modified but still acceptable Victorian pattern and provide valuable service. That of Annie Wittenmyer, who worked to provide nonmilitary supplies, orphan asylums, and diet kitchens, has her adopting male roles by exercising administrative and political skills; her positive programs, persistently and vigorously promoted, succeeded because she effected compromises with men as steps toward achieving her goals. That of the only woman to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, physician Mary Edwards Walker, however, exemplifies a woman who could not endure compromise and interpreted every opposition to her as a personal affront; she tried to overturn at once the whole gender relationship of the time and so achieved little of a permanent nature. Leonard tells these career stories well, in detail and with liveliness.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393036664
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
09/01/1994
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
5.81(w) x 8.56(h) x 1.24(d)

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