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Reviews253 strenuous physical reenactment of past military life. Cullen backs away, however, from sustained analysis of this rich material. Do most of these reenactors, for instance, have Civil War ancestors, as does his principal informant? Moreover, do significant differences exist between reenactors in the South and the North? The author's essay leaves us wanting more in-depth analysis of how popular, academic, official, personal, and family histories of the Civil War intersect in particular places and at particular times. The Civil War in Popular Culture offers a superb introduction to the variety of Civil War histories possible in American life. It also explains why a particular version of the war seems prevalent among a specific group at a certain time. Perhaps the book's greatest value lies in its comparison of the world of professional historians with the world of popular culture entrepreneurs and reenactors. For Cullen, the battle of most interest is not the one between the North and the South, but rather the one between the conventions of the profession of history and the manner in which Americans choose to represent their past. An Evening When Alone: Four Journals of Single Women in the South, 1827-67. Edited by Michael O'Brien. University Press of Virginia, 1993. 460 pp. Cloth, $35.00. Reviewed by Christopher Morris, assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at Arlington, and author of Becoming Southern: The Evolution of a Way of Life, Warren County and Vicksburg, Mississippi, 1770-1860. An Evening When Alone brings together the journals of four southern women. At first glance, these women will seem familiar to students of southern culture. One woman is the anxious yet intelligent twenty-year-old, who frets constantly about her prospects: "Feel much better to-day after shedding a few relieving tears." Another woman is the superficial belle: "Saw Lewis Robinson at the table today, he was very friendly—I dont like him." The third woman is the northern-bom governess, who laments, "Woman! morally and physically, yes she is born to suffer, and endure, and not complain . . . depending on beings upon which she has no control, excepting the mockery submission of the hour when she is marked out by her tyrant for a still deeper slavery." Finally, the spinster guardian aunt explains, "The boys have not done so well at school seemed to be ashamed of it when I lectured about it." Through these remarkable documents, which have been skillfully edited by Michael O'Brien, we come to know these women not as mere archetypes, but as individuals. Although differing in age, class, and place, the writers have in common their single status and a need to express themselves. Their journals are as remarkable for their variations as for their similarities. Elizabeth Ruffin, half sister of Edmund Ruffin (the well-known Virginia agricultural reformer, fire-eater, and diarist in his own right) penned her journal in 1827. She was only twenty, full of trepidation about her future. She was also uncomfortable with her physical appearance, uneasy in her gentility. But mostly she was afraid—of marrying , of ending up a spinster, of wasting her life in idleness, of putting on weight, and especially of being alone. She was very conscious of being a woman, concerned about whether she could live up to her society's expectations for women and not at all sure she wanted to. 254Southern Cultures Ruffin's journal introduces us to a young woman who could stare into the future— her whole adult life awaited her—and conclude her best years had already passed. She was at age twenty "past the power of enchantment." Apparently she was wrong. We know from O'Brien's introduction that Ruffin did marry, that she had six children, and that her life as a mother and wife was more terrifying and fulfilling perhaps than she could ever have imagined as a young woman. Our knowledge of her subsequent life only makes this early journal more poignant. Written a generation later in 1851, the journals of South Carolina's Jane Caroline North provide a rather different view of antebellum southern womanhood. If Elizabeth Ruffin is a bundle of insecurities, Jane North is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 253-255
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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