First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis's Civil War

By Joan E. Cashin | Go to book overview

10
CROWD OF SORROWS

IN 1874, MRS. DAVIS began working for a salary for the first time, taking in sewing from local families in Memphis. She earned a small income, twenty or so dollars per piece of clothing. Before the war, she had sold an article to a magazine, and in 1862 and 1865 she had offered to take a job, and now she assured her husband that it did not “distress” her to work. It probably did not distress her more than anything else that had happened recently. She sympathized with war widows who had to support themselves, and she quietly asked other people to help them out. Varina must have enjoyed working, for in the 1880s she told a friend that working for a salary could be a “blessing in disguise.” Regarding their own money, the Davises reverted to antebellum custom whereby Jefferson handled most of the finances, even though he did not have a job. He hated Northerners so much that he tried to avoid investments with any kind of “Yankee association,” not the wisest economic strategy. Surviving records show that he owned about seven to eight thousand dollars' worth of business stock and land, a fraction of his antebellum fortune, and he found it dispiriting to hear from friends who could afford to live well.1

In the mid-1870s, Varina chose to put some of her energies into reform activities beyond the household. Some of them were rather traditional activities, such as collecting coal with church members to distribute to the poor, while other activities resembled some of her

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First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis's Civil War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Half Breed 9
  • 2: This Mr. Davis 31
  • 3: Flattered and Courted 54
  • 4: First Lady 80
  • 5: No Matter What Danger There Was 107
  • 6: Holocausts of Herself 128
  • 7: Run with the Rest 152
  • 8: Threadbare Great Folks 171
  • 9: Topic of the Day 190
  • 10: Crowd of Sorrows 209
  • 11: Fascinating Failures 227
  • 12: The Girdled Tree 245
  • 13: Delectable City 264
  • 14: Like Martha 283
  • 15: At Peace 306
  • Abbrevations 314
  • Notes 315
  • A Note on Sources 393
  • Acknowledgments 395
  • Index 397
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