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Paper 1- Gender and the Civil War

Paper 1- Gender and the Civil War - Gender and the Civil...

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Gender and the Civil War In thinking about the ramifications of the Civil War, it is common to think about it as a war to end slavery. However, it was not only the lives of black people that changed dramatically after the Civil War. The Civil War had a drastic socioeconomic impact on the way of life in the Southern States, especially on the lives of Southern women. Author Drew Gilpin Faust in her historical work, Mothers of Invention , argues that the Civil War lead to a change in the role of the women of the slaveholding South. This thesis includes the idea that women were forced to reconsider their images, identities, relationship with men and role in society. This secondary source, covering the Civil War period from approximately 1861-65 is based upon the diaries, essays, letters and other writings of more than 500 Confederate upper class women. This work will be contrasted with the first hand experiences (primary source) of Ada W. Bacot in A Confederate Nurse, The Diary of Ada W. Bacot, 1860-1863. Faust does reference the writings of Bacot to support some of her (Faust’s) points. Although Faust’s description of life in the Southern States during the Civil War is reflective of Bacot’s experiences, I am certain that Bacot’s concerns and perspectives differed somewhat. These differences are best understood by analyzing the issues facing the women in the South as the Civil War evolved. At the dawn of the Civil War, as the threat of war swept across the South, the issues of the day aroused emotions in both men and women. The difference in Southern society, politics was the domain of men and not women. There was a difference of opinion, in the minds of women, regarding their rights to express political views. Faust notes, “Men voted; men spoke in public; ladies appropriately remained within the sphere of home and family” (Faust 10). In a letter to her fiancé, Lucy Wood of Charlottesville 1
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Gender and the Civil War Virginia wrote, “…I have no political opinion and have a peculiar dislike to all females who discuss such matters” (Faust 10). Nonetheless, as the secession crisis escalated, women became more involved with politics. In Richmond, women filled the ladies’ gallery to hear the Virginia Convention’s debates regarding secession. Catherine Edmonston of North Carolina notes, “Public affairs absorbs all our interest” (Faust 11). Ana W. Bacot was from South Carolina, the first State to secede from the Union. In her diary, Bacot voiced a mixed sentiment regarding a woman’s voice in politics; “I wonder some times if people think it strange I should be so warm a secessionist, but why should they, has not every woman a right to express her opinions upon such subjects, in private if not in public” (Bacot 26). Certainly the Southern way of life would be threatened if slavery ended. These women came from upper class families owning slaves. Their income and prosperity depended on maintenance of plantation life. These women had
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Paper 1- Gender and the Civil War - Gender and the Civil...

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