In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

The cultural filters between today's reader and the English Merchant are many. Through these filters, however, his voice speaks clearly ofa time and a place diat pique the imagination: It is 1862, and after doing his market research, this businessman places his bet on a Confederate victory. The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender Augusta, Georgia, 1 860—1 890 By LeeAnn Whites University of Georgia Press, 1995 277 pp. Cloth, $3 5.00 Reviewed by Anne M. VaIk, who teaches oral history, women's history, and public history in the department ofhistorical studies at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. She was formerly coordinator for "Behind the Veil: Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South," a research project based at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. LeeAnn Whites contributes to the multitude of texts devoted to die Civil War with her provocative analysis ofhow the war precipitated a crisis in white southerners ' gender conventions, pushing elite men and women to make order in their changing world. Gender conventions, as Whites explains, constitute "historically rooted ways of organizing the gender order rather than . . . timeless, essential characteristics, belonging 'naturally' to the male or female sex." With a focus on the ideas and actions of elite white residents ofAugusta, Georgia, from the onset of the war through 1 890, Whites uses gender as a category of analysis to understand die roles that men and women played in the struggle to preserve slavery and to "reconstruct" white manhood and womanhood after defeat. Whites utilizes a rich array ofprimary sources, including women's diaries, letters , public speeches, and newspaper editorials, to document the efforts of men and women in Augusta to adapt to wartime necessities, mobilize to prevent the Confederacy's defeat, and ultimately to adjust to die loss of dieir slave-based agrarian economy. Although the activity ofAfrican American and poor men and women is largely outside die scope of this analysis, die presence of slaves and "common" men and women served as a backdrop against which elite men and women formed their identities. Initially men and women articulated the Confederacy 's cause as securing the independence of southern white men. But wartime 86 Reviews demands for men's labor on battlefields and for women's domestic labor to support the war effort exposed die underlying truth of men's dependence on the contributions of women, children, and slaves in dieir households. As die demands of fighting increased, men's primary significance to the Confederacy became as conscripted bodies to be sacrificed for the cause, a position that ironically resembled that ofwomen and slaves, whose value also rested in their bodies. For women, the war created opportunities for public activity at the same time that it reinforced their subordinate status. Sacrificing sons, brothers, and husbands to the battlefields, women consequendy suffered a loss ofeconomic privilege and protection. But the war also empowered them to extend dieir domestic roles into the public arena as "social mothers." Women formed voluntary associations and institutions through which they cared for soldiers by sewing uniforms and feeding, nursing, and burying the dead. The wartime crisis of gender, according to Whites, thus arose when, "as Confederate women's public status expanded , their newfound autonomy threatened to undermine the very basis for the social construction of white manhood that they were supposed to be propping up." The war's end and the Confederacy's defeat further transformed southern white men's and women's lives and threatened to undermine men's dominance in the public sphere and to devastate the patriarchal household structure. Regarding this group ofelite male southerners, Whites asks, "To what extent had the loss of their public and political position reduced them so far that in addition to being unable to 'protect' their women they had been reduced to a position diat was actually like that oftheir women?" The only way to cope with this loss was to strive to maintain both gender difference and men's dominance over their women. To succeed, both white women and men had to participate in a reconfiguration of the meaning of manhood and a reinterpretation of the causes and outcomes of die war. Limited in their...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 86-88
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.