This essay surveys Reconstruction scholarship centrally concerned with women and gender published since the 1990s. By drawing on gender theory, particularly the insights of intersectional analysis, women’s historians advanced a redefinition of politics that has transformed Reconstruction historiography over the past twenty-five years. This essay examines the tension between scholarship that emphasizes the importance of gendered exclusions in grounding Reconstruction’s civil rights gains and research that foregrounds women’s engagement in the era’s radically pluralistic politics. The western turn in Reconstruction scholarship raises new questions about emancipation’s impact on women’s lives and the connections between women’s suffrage and white supremacy. This essay contends that gender remains an essential analytical category for historians seeking to integrate regional strands of Reconstruction scholarship; at the same time, it argues that recognizing women’s agency in advancing and curtailing the era’s equalitarian potential is essential to developing comprehensive new narratives of the postwar era.


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pp. 111-131
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