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Class Year

2006

Abstract

Southern slaveholding women during the Civil War are usually portrayed as either Eve or the Virgin Mary. They are either depicted as staunch patriotic wives and mothers who out of love suffered and sacrificed most of their worldly goods for the Cause, or as weak-willed creatures who gave up on the war, asked their men to come home, and concerned themselves with getting pretty dresses from the blockade runners and dancing at elaborate balls and bazaars. This latter view, which seems cut so superficially from Gone With the Wind, is nevertheless one that is common in Civil War scholarship today. Confederate women are seen as individuals who whimsically stopped supporting the war the moment it inflicted a moment of consumer inconvenience on them, leading historians to suggest that women, with their slipping morale, symbolized the weak Confederate nationalism that helped erode the will of Southern citizens to continue the war. It is thus imperative to understand the role of women in the South and their relationship to the war in order to understand if their actions helped to contribute to the defeat of the Confederacy.

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