12 AFTER HER RETURN FROM EUROPE, Winnie Davis led
a quiet life at Beauvoir. She was devoted to both her parents, and as one observer noted, she seemed to be trying
to fill the places of her deceased brothers. A favorite in the Davis clan
and described as “lovable” by her friends, she was set apart by her education, probably the only person in Mississippi who could write her
initials in Sanskrit. Winnie read as widely as her mother did, and
when Varina rearranged the Beauvoir library, she explained the new
system to Winnie and included some imaginary exchanges between
the authors, Macaulay in dialogue with the Girondists. Winnie was in
fact more cerebral than either of her parents. One day when her
mother was talking to her about fashion, Winnie interrupted to discuss the suffering of the Irish people and then segued to the labor
question in the United States.1
THE GIRDLED TREE
Winnie's relationship with her only surviving sibling, Maggie, was
more complicated. The sisters exchanged gifts and warm letters, and
Winnie was godmother to Maggie's son Jefferson, born in 1884, yet
the nine-year difference in their ages and Winnie's long absence in
Karlsruhe meant that the sisters had little in common. Undercurrents
of jealousy percolated between them, which their mother tried to
smooth over. As can sometimes happen in families with two children,
Maggie became her father's favorite, and Winnie, her mother's; the
parents typically lauded Maggie for her good looks and Winnie for
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis's Civil War.
Contributors: Joan E. Cashin - Author.
Publisher: Belknap Press.
Place of publication: Cambridge, MA.
Publication year: 2006.
Page number: 245.
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