Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War

Synopsis

When Confederate men marched off to battle, white women across the South confronted unaccustomed and unsought responsibilities: directing farms and plantations, providing for families, and supervising increasingly restive slaves. As southern women struggled "to do a man's business", they found themselves compelled to reconsider their most fundamental assumptions about their identities and about the larger meaning of womanhood. Drew Faust offers a compelling picture of the more than half-million women who belonged to the slaveholding families of the Confederacy during this period of acute crisis. According to Faust, the most privileged of southern women experienced the destruction of war as both a social and a personal upheaval: the prerogatives of whiteness and the protections of ladyhood began to dissolve as the Confederacy weakened and crumbled. Faust draws on the eloquent diaries, letters, essays, memoirs, fiction, and poetry of more than 500 of the Confederacy's elite women to show that with the disintegration of slavery and the disappearance of prewar prosperity, every part of these women's lives became vexed and uncertain. But it was not just females who worried about the changing nature of gender relations in the wartime South; Confederate political discourse and popular culture - plays, novels, songs, and paintings - also negotiated the changed meanings of womanhood. Exploring elite Confederate women's wartime experiences as wives, mothers, nurses, teachers, slave managers, authors, readers, and survivors, this book chronicles the clash of the old and the new within a group that was at once the beneficiary and the victim of the social order of the Old South. Mothers of Inventionshow how people managed both to change and not to change and how their personal transformations related to a larger world of society and politics. Beautifully written and eminently readable, this study of women and war is a

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