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Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War

de Victoria E. Ott

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Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War explores gender, age, and Confederate identity by examining the lives of teenage daughters of Southern slaveholding, secessionist families. Author Victoria E. Ott discusses how the loyalty of young Southern women to the fledgling nation, born out of a conservative movement to preserve the status quo, brought them into new areas of work, new types of civic activism, and new rituals of courtship during the Civil War.When differences between the North and South proved irreconcilable, Southern daughters demonstrated extraordinary agency in seeking to protect their futures as wives, mothers, and slaveholders. From a position of young womanhood and privilege, they threw their support behind the movement to create a Confederate identity, which was in turn shaped by their participation in the secession movement and the war effort.""Confederate Daughters"" reveals how these young women, in an effort to sustain their families throughout the war, took on new domestic duties and sought paid work outside their homes as a way of adjusting to the loss of slaves and to the financial strains of war. Despite changing conditions on the home front, teenage daughters, Ott argues, continued to uphold marriage and motherhood as the pinnacle of Southern womanhood. Even as war threatened to disrupt this life course by creating a dearth of male suitors, they adjusted their courtship rituals and marital expectations to the wartime circumstances.Drawing on their personal and published recollections of the war, slavery, and the Old South, Ott argues that young women created a unique female identity different from that of older Southern women, the Confederate belle image. This transformative female identity was an important aspect of the Lost Cause mythology - the version of the conflict that focused on Southern nationalism - and bridged the cultural gap between the antebellum and postbellum periods.Augmented by twelve illustrations, this book offers a generational understanding of the transitional nature of wartime and its effects on women's self-perceptions. ""Confederate Daughters"" reveals how significant the experiences of teenage daughters were to the development of a new identity for women in the New South.… (mais)
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I have just received from the publisher a review copy of what promises to be a fascinating study of young women who lived in the Confederate states and came of age during the Civil War. The author, Victoria Ott, is an assistant professor of history at Birmingham Southern College.

Ms. Ott has examined the lives of 85 young women born between 1843 and 1849 through written records such as diaries and letters. She poses the following questions in her introduction:

"What did they stand to gain by the Confederacy's success and what did they stand to lose in defeat?

"How did young women conceptualize their role in the Confederacy as their parents assumed the adult responsibilities in creating the national structure and identity?

"In what ways did they define their roles according to the rhetorical image of Confederate women and to the reality of wartime circumstances?

"Did their support for the war, like so many of the older generation of women begin to wane as the conflict took its toll on the communities?

"Finally, I turn to the issue of war and memory in asking how this generation participated in the creation of Lost Cause mythology.

"What do their reminiscences of the Confederate experience reveal to us about their worldview in the New South era?"

Twenty eight of the young women in Ms. Ott's study were from Virginia, and I will be very interested in how their experiences compare with Betty Herndon Maury's. Betty, of course, falls outside of the age range Ms. Ott has chosen to study, having been born in 1835. Betty was married and the mother of a young daughter when the war began, so her viewpoint is different from that of the younger girls. However, there was another Fredericksburg diarist who does fit into the age range identified by Ms. Ott: Lizzie Alsop, who was born in 1846.

As a side note, a character in Virginia, a novel by Ellen Glasgow, gives a portrait of a woman who came of age during the Civil War, Miss Priscilla Batte, who never married and whose pre-war dreams of her life to come never came to fruition. ( )
  cmcarpenter | Jan 1, 2009 |
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Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War explores gender, age, and Confederate identity by examining the lives of teenage daughters of Southern slaveholding, secessionist families. Author Victoria E. Ott discusses how the loyalty of young Southern women to the fledgling nation, born out of a conservative movement to preserve the status quo, brought them into new areas of work, new types of civic activism, and new rituals of courtship during the Civil War.When differences between the North and South proved irreconcilable, Southern daughters demonstrated extraordinary agency in seeking to protect their futures as wives, mothers, and slaveholders. From a position of young womanhood and privilege, they threw their support behind the movement to create a Confederate identity, which was in turn shaped by their participation in the secession movement and the war effort.""Confederate Daughters"" reveals how these young women, in an effort to sustain their families throughout the war, took on new domestic duties and sought paid work outside their homes as a way of adjusting to the loss of slaves and to the financial strains of war. Despite changing conditions on the home front, teenage daughters, Ott argues, continued to uphold marriage and motherhood as the pinnacle of Southern womanhood. Even as war threatened to disrupt this life course by creating a dearth of male suitors, they adjusted their courtship rituals and marital expectations to the wartime circumstances.Drawing on their personal and published recollections of the war, slavery, and the Old South, Ott argues that young women created a unique female identity different from that of older Southern women, the Confederate belle image. This transformative female identity was an important aspect of the Lost Cause mythology - the version of the conflict that focused on Southern nationalism - and bridged the cultural gap between the antebellum and postbellum periods.Augmented by twelve illustrations, this book offers a generational understanding of the transitional nature of wartime and its effects on women's self-perceptions. ""Confederate Daughters"" reveals how significant the experiences of teenage daughters were to the development of a new identity for women in the New South.

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