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Devotion

A novel based on the life of Winnie Davis, Daughter of the Confederacy

Julia Oliver

Publication Year: 2006

Devotion re-creates the life of Varina Anne (Winnie) Davis, the youngest child of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. Winnie was not quite a year old when the family fled the Rebel stronghold of Richmond as the Civil War was ending. Twenty-one years later, Winnie was catapulted into a celebrity she did not seek. As the officially proclaimed Daughter of the Confederacy, she was presented with great fanfare at large conventions of Confederate veterans from Texas to Virginia. In the late nineteenth century, Winnie Davis was known here and abroad as a foremost cultural symbol of the South's Lost Cause.

Yet she was also a cosmopolitan, intellectual "New Woman" who earned a living as a journalist and novelist and traveled with the Joseph Pulitzers. Winnie's adoring followers often misread her steadfast love for her father as unconditional support of the failed Confederacy and the Old South's nostalgic ideals of womanhood. Julia Oliver explores these contradictions from several angles. Winnie speaks from the pages of her journal. Other narrators include Winnie's close friend Kate Pulitzer; her sister, Maggie Hayes; and the love of her life, Alfred Wilkinson, the grandson of a famous abolitionist.

From the portrayals of Winnie's romance, her relationships with her parents, her illness and depression, and her ambivalent role as torchbearer for the Lost Cause emerges a young woman whose conflicted existence reflects the tenor of the country in the aftermath of the Civil War. An intimate saga about a remarkable, star-crossed family, Devotion poignantly measures the massive weight of memory on individuals caught up in the sweep of history.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Winnie’s Notebook

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pp. 1-42

In the dream, the junction could be a mural or a mirage. The sky is an improbable larkspur blue; the station house resembles a cuckoo clock that I had as a child and believed was haunted. Bystanders appear inanimate...

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Kate Pulitzer

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pp. 43-65

We met Winnie Davis for the first time twelve years ago, at a party in Syracuse. My husband and I arrived a bit tardily and were informed by the host, “Our young friend from Mississippi is in the side parlor...

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Winnie’s Notebook

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pp. 55-87

Four and a half years ago, a startling revelation came to me from Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Labeled “Personal, to Miss Varina Anne (Winnie) Davis, in care of the New York World,” the letter was forwarded to our home address. I slit the top of the plain, workmanlike envelope and hoped...

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Margaret Connelly

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pp. 88-100

Having been in domestic service since I was fifteen—over half my lifetime—I could tell tales that would raise an eyebrow or cause a gasp, but I don’t have the urge to prattle about people I have worked for and come to know as well as I do my own family. Most of them, including my current mistress...

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Winnie’s Notebook

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pp. 101-142

On this day in 1881—seventeen years and half my life ago—I left boarding school. My mother, who has never hesitated to request favors of friends and friends of friends, had asked Miss Emily Mason, who lived in Paris and would be traveling in Germany at that time, to collect me in Karlsruhe...

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Maggie Hayes

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pp. 143-175

My mother has a flair for personal correspondence. A friend of hers who had traveled from Kentucky to Richmond to attend Winnie’s funeral told me, “Varina writes so engagingly, as if we see each other frequently. Indeed, after I’ve read a letter from her...

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Alfred Wilkinson

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pp. 176-204

I have just read of the death of Mrs. Jefferson Davis. Spotting the prominently featured obituary provided a moment of elation, as though I had won a long-waged competition—but there was no competition, and no winner...

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Epilogue

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pp. 205-206

I have just read of the death of Mrs. Jefferson Davis. Spotting the prominently featured obituary provided a moment of elation, as though I had won a long-waged competition—but there was no competition, and no winner...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 207-210

For his astute advice and ongoing encouragement through all phases of this project, I am indebted to Richard Jordan. It was my good fortune to connect early on with Ruth Ann Coski at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 211-214


E-ISBN-13: 9780820341576
E-ISBN-10: 0820341576
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820328744
Print-ISBN-10: 082032874X

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Biographical fiction. -- gsafd.
  • Historical fiction. -- gsafd.
  • Confederate States of America -- Fiction.
  • Children of presidents -- Confederate States of America -- Fiction.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Fiction.
  • Davis, Varina Anne, 1864-1898 -- Fiction.
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