Women during the Civil War: An Encyclopedia

By Judith E. Harper | Go to book overview
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from one set of rented hotel rooms to others, fighting for her independence and integrity. Her attempt to raise money selling her dresses, Elizabeth Keckley’s tell-all memoir, the newspapers’ endless fascination with her wartime extravagances, her son Robert’s mission to commit her to an asylum, and her insanity trial, all contributed to her decision to travel and live abroad for long periods.

Selected Readings
Baker, Jean H. “Mary Todd Lincoln (1818-1882). In Portraits of American Women: From Settlement to the Present. Edited by G. J. Barker-Benfield and Catherine Clinton. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 1991. 241-257.
Baker, Jean H. Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography. New York: Norton. 1987.
Turner, Justin G. and Linda Levitt Turner. Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters. New York: Knopf. 1972.

Literary Women

A dozen [stories] a month were easily turned off, and well paid for, especially while a certain editor labored under the delusion that the writer was a man. The moment the truth was known the price was lowered; but the girl had learned the worth of her wares, and would not write for less, so continued to earn her fair wages in spite of sex.

—Louisa May Alcott, commenting on her early years as a writer for the magazine The Critic, March 17, 1888 (quoted in Stern 1998, 58).

By the advent of the Civil War, women writers were an established, influential force in the nation’s literary marketplace. They supplied a print-hungry populace with novels, short stories, poems, essays, articles, and nonfiction narratives. During the war, women’s writing increasingly dominated magazines and newspapers, especially in the North, where no significant disruption in press circulation occurred. Through their writings, women of the North and South expressed their political beliefs and helped to shape the way their respective nation viewed its mission. A crucial part of their political agenda was to highlight all the ways in which women were contributing to the war effort.

As educational opportunities for women expanded and as women’s literacy rates soared in the early to mid-nineteenth century, women became important literary consumers. An array of women’s magazines appeared and prospered. Godey’s Lady’s Book, edited by the author SARAH JOSEPHA HALE, was the most popular women’s magazine for several decades before the war. It achieved a circulation of 150,000 by 1860, rivaling that of the most widely sold general-interest periodicals (Fahs 2001, 42). Although men controlled the manufacture and business of mainstream publishing, book publishing had recognized the economic power of


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