Women Shaping the South: Creating and Confronting Change

Women Shaping the South: Creating and Confronting Change

Women Shaping the South: Creating and Confronting Change

Women Shaping the South: Creating and Confronting Change

Synopsis

Events in southern history have often been recounted from the top down, relying on political and economic models to explain historical changes. Thus, the key players have usually been men who dominated politics, shaped economic development, and led armies. However, history is also made from the bottom up by those who confront change and shape it through their actions. In this collection of essays, the contributors reexamine major transformative events of southern history from the late eighteenth century through the civil rights era. Shifting the focus to the local level, the authors demonstrate how women participated in creating change, even as they confronted conditions over which they had little power. In addition to exploring southern women's lives, this collection shows how women shaped southern history. Using new and extensive primary research, each of these authors presents a new perspective on the important roles that women of different races and classes have played in transforming the South at some of its most crucial turning points, including post-Revolution, Civil War, Jim Crow era, World War I, and the civil rights movement. Expanded from papers presented at the Sixth Southern Conference on Women's History in Athens, Georgia, these essays reflect the depth and breadth of current vibrant research in southern women's history and contribute exciting and important new scholarship to the field. Just as significant, the volume highlights the trends in southern women's historical scholarship and points toward new directions for future scholars.

Excerpt

Jean B. Lee

In an upstairs bedroom at Mount Vernon one June morning in 1832, Jane Charlotte Washington sat at the bedside of her husband, John Augustine Washington, the estate's incumbent owner. For many months he had been ill with a lung condition accompanied by hemorrhaging, and on that morning his wife and a physician were doing their best to keep John Augustine quiet and comfortable. When the sick man heard a sudden "commotion" downstairs, however, he grew agitated and wanted to know what was wrong. Upon investigating, the physician discovered "a party of strangers, who, in spite of the protestations of the servants that their master lay ill, had forced an entrance into the Hall, and were insisting on going through a portion of the rooms." Amid the "clamor," Jane suddenly let out a "piercing shriek" while her husband hemorrhaged uncontrollably. Within minutes he was dead.

This essay draws upon the author's research concerning Mount Vernon's links to
the nation between the Revolution and the Civil War. By making the rich manuscript
resources at Mount Vernon available, Barbara A. McMillan and Mary V. Thompson have
been instrumental in forwarding this work. Generous financial and intellectual support
has come from the David Library of the American Revolution, the Virginia Foundation
for the Humanities and Public Policy, the Virginia Historical Society, and the Graduate
School of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. the author gratefully acknowledges the
insightful comments of Andy Ambrose and Ann J. Lane, who critiqued a shorter version
of this essay at the Sixth Southern Conference on Women's History. in numerous ways,
Angela Boswell and Judith McArthur have been helpful and understanding editors.

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