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litde mention of race, racial beliefs, or the relationship between material conditions and the evolving racial perceptions that enabled so many Warren County boys to pick up their muskets in defense of family and state. Nor do we know much about the women ofWarren County beyond the fascinating but largely hypothetical speculations that they did no essential work as plantation mistresses, were deprived of a separate sphere in plantation households , and seldom divorced or ran away as the era advanced toward the 1 86os. If class and material conditions mattered, ifthey shaped and formed soudiern ideas, then die control by white males of slave and white female labor and the sexuality of all Warren County women—the twin pillars upon which the southern patriarchy rested—cannot be easily dismissed or avoided. Nearly every foundation stone in Morris's fascinating edifice is subject to such criticism. Not that he is usually wrong, it is just that his insights are seldom convincing because he does not offer sufficient evidence and compelling argument. To do what Morris wants to do requires a more substantial and more developed book about this important litde place in Mississippi. I, for one, wish that Morris had taken the time and pages to do the necessary enlargement: more data (taking his personal biographies to the 1860s), more reflection on alternative explanations , and more distancing of himself from the imaginary place he has so elegandy fashioned in his mind. Our Common Affairs Texts from Women in the Old South Edited byJoan E. Cashin The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996 352 pp. Cloth, $39.95 Reviewed by Kathryit McKee, assistant professor of English and southern studies at the University of Mississippi. She is currendy at work on a book about postbellum female humorists in the South. "Writing is a delightful invention," Margaret Manigault wrote to her sister Georgina in 1 81 1 . "Is it not admirable that at this distance of thousands of miles we should be able to disclose with safety secrets ofthe utmost importance?"Joan E. Cashin opens these "secrets of the utmost importance" to the reader in Our 98 Reviews CommonAffairs: Textsfrom Women in the OldSouth. Cashin's impeccably researched compilation of correspondence between white antebellum women reads like compelling fiction. Yet filled with family quarrels, hints of romance, and die advancing clouds of secession and civil war, the letters Cashin includes in her collection escort the reader into the lives of real women. These documents establish the existence of what Cashin identifies as a "culture of resignation," a distincdy southern female culture that separated the women of this region from their northern counterparts and rescued them from repeated assumptions that they existed in a sterile environment, devoid ofgender-based camaraderie. Our Common Affairs is, by Cashin's estimate, the first compilation of primary materials by and about antebellum southern white women, many ofthem the first literate females of their families. Using texts drawn from manuscript collections throughout the South, including letters, diary entries, legal records, recipes, and excerpted published work, she chronicles the lives ofwomen between 1 8 1 1 and 1 86 1 in every slave-holding state except Delaware, including the border states of Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri. The writers represent a variety of stations in life: planters' wives, schoolteachers, widows, governesses, clergymen's wives, working women, and teenagers. Although the collection is by Cashin's own admission "biased toward the literate and the comfortable," the documents reveal diverse attitudes, experiences, and opinions that illustrate the culture she sets out to describe, both in its unifying and its idiosyncratic dimensions. According to Cashin, antebellum southern women resigned themselves to gender inequity and exclusion from the male world of partisan politics. She distinguishes the soudiern female experience from both the New England "culture of reform" and radical "countercultures" consciously established to tiiwart conventional patterns ofbehavior. The "culture ofresignation," conversely, was "riddled witii evasions about the unpleasant, frustrating, and depressing aspects of white women's lives." Cashin attributes the distinctive features of this culture to peculiarly southern burdens: racial violence, miscegenation, the persistence of paternalistic attitudes toward slavery, and the increasing political pressure on white southern women to remain apolitical and silent in the face of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 98-101
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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