Dixie's Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture/Monuments to the Lost Cause: Women, Art, and the Landscapes of Southern Memory

By Brown, Thomas J. | South Carolina Historical Magazine, October 2003 | Go to article overview

Dixie's Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture/Monuments to the Lost Cause: Women, Art, and the Landscapes of Southern Memory


Brown, Thomas J., South Carolina Historical Magazine


Dixie's Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture. By Karen L. Cox. (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003. Pp. xx, 218; $55.00, cloth.)

Monuments to the Lost Cause: Women, Art, and the Landscapes of Southern Memory. Edited by Cynthia Mills and Pamela H. Simpson. (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2003. Pp. xxx, 265; $45.00, cloth.)

The role of white southern women in Confederate commemoration is one of the central topics in the past decade of scholarship on public remembrance of the Civil War. The subject is significant in part because the prominence of women, both as promoters and as icons of memory, is one of the most striking differences between southern and northern remembrance. Apart from the light that this contrast sheds on the convergence or distinctiveness of the sections, such groups as Ladies Memorial Associations, women's committees to sponsor monuments, and the United Daughters of Confederacy (UDC) ranked for decades among the main outlets of any kind available to white southern, women who sought to engage in public affairs or to relate a sense of personal identity to the defining epic of the region. By focusing on the most influential organization and the most conspicuous artifacts built by women's commemoration, Dixie's Daughters andMonuments to the Lost Cause identify excellent frameworks for adding to the research on this important theme.

Karen Cox's study of the UDC from its founding in 1894 through World War I seeks to fill a gap in the scholarship that has been evident for some time. She notes that Gaines Foster's Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South, 1865-1913 (1987), Charles Reagan Wilson's Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920 (1980), and Rollin G. Osterweis's The Myth of the Lost Cause, 1865-1900 (1973) focus primarily on activities of men in developing southern memory of the Confederacy. Foster addressed gender issues most directly, arguing that after about 1910 the increasing influence of women in what he aptly called "the Confederate celebration" was an indication of its declining relevance to southern society. Cox sets it as her task to show that women played a leading role in a Confederate culture that grew increasingly powerful in the region and the nation. After tracing the origins of the UDC, she devotes chapters to the achievements of the organization in sponsoring public monuments, establishing homes for indigent Confederate widows and veterans and scholarships for southern children, and shaping the treatment of American history in school textbooks and instruction. Through this support for the conservative Lost Cause, Cox emphasizes, UDC members assumed more active public roles than white southern women had previously undertaken, which together with its enthusiastic celebration of Confederate women made the UDC a significant feminist force although organization members had a range of opinions on suffrage and other women's rights issues.

The ease with which Cox documents the extensive work of the UDC leaves the reader wishing that this modest book had been more ambitious. Content to add up white southern women's contributions, Cox does not press her argument by considering the relative importance of the areas in which the UDC was active and the more male-dominated activities (like veterans reunions and Protestant preaching) that Foster and Wilson treated as the key manifestations of Confederate memory in the 189Os and early 190Os. More important, she does not ask whether women provided distinctive ideological perspectives to the movement, as historians LeeAnn Whites and Jane Turner Censer have suggested. For example, Cox recounts that the UDC put up a grand monument to Jefferson Davis in Richmond after the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) failed in an attempt to do so, but she does not indicate that the UDC's interpretation of Davis was different from the UCVs view.

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