Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War

Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War

by Elizabeth D. Leonard, W W Norton & Co.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393313727
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 09/17/1995
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth D. Leonard is the John J. and Cornelia V. Gibson Professor of History at Colby College. The author of several books, including Yankee Women, All the Daring of a Soldier, Lincoln’s Avengers, and Men of Color to Arms!, she lives in Waterville, Maine.

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Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
sjmccreary on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is a non-fiction examination of 3 different northern women who became active in supporting the civil war effort. One served as an army nurse, one as an organizer of a relief effort to provide supplies to soldiers, the third as a medical doctor. The author's main focus was on the gender roles of middle-class people before, during, and after the war. I thought she did an adequate job of demonstrating that middle class women before the war were expected to provide care and nurturing to their families and communities, but were not permitted to be active outside this protective sphere, and certainly not allowed to perform services for pay. During the war, women wanted to become involved in the union cause, and were able to make a case that nursing and providing other kinds of charitable support (providing food, clothing, medical supplies, etc) to the soldiers from local regiments fell within the socially acceptable roles they had been allotted. However the question of receiving a salary for performing "women's work" was a controversial one. But while the upper class ladies could afford to volunteer their services, the middle class women had families to support while their husbands and fathers were away fighting. They were WILLING to serve, but could not AFFORD to do so unless they were paid. Lower class women do not figure into this argument at all - they were forced to work for pay even before the war. The arguments became more convoluted when the facts revealed that men serving in these roles during the war received salaries as a matter of course, that the women were doing excellent work - even compared to the men, and that allowing women to perform these supporting tasks freed men up for more active military duties.The third example, the woman doctor, did not follow the same eventual course to acceptance. However, I never fully understood whether Leonard believed this to be due to the higher level of skill and responsibility involved in her work compared to the other ladies, or whether it was due to the particular traits of this one woman. By all accounts, she was "odd" and did little to cause others to want to accept her. The last part of the book consists of an examination of the postwar historical writings about the role of women during the war. Leonard seems to believe that most of society (that is, the men) just wanted the women to go back to the way they were before, and tried to write the histories to indicate that this is exactly what happened. In fact, it was not exactly what happened. Because of their efforts during the civil war, professional nursing and charitable organizational work became acceptable for middle class women. On the other hand, the case of female medical doctors was a different matter. For any number of reasons, female (or negro) medical doctors were not generally accepted until the mid-20th century - many years after the civil war ended. It was this last section of the book that broke down for me. I'm not sure what points she kept trying to make, but the last 30 or 40 pages seemed very repetitive. No new arguments made, no new conclusions reached. The book has extensive footnotes and bibliography, which I admittedly did not examine closely. The book isn't long - only 200 pages of text - but I found it slow going. The writing seems forced and wooden, more like the regurgitation of facts by a student than the authoritative assertion and support of a theory by an expert in the field that I would have prefered. However, the topic and facts were new to me so I am able to rate the book 3 stars. Someone who is more familiar with the subject might rate it differently.