Emma Spaulding Bryant: Civil War Bride, Carpetbagger's Wife, Ardent Feminist: Letters and Diaries, 1860-1900

Emma Spaulding Bryant: Civil War Bride, Carpetbagger's Wife, Ardent Feminist: Letters and Diaries, 1860-1900

Emma Spaulding Bryant: Civil War Bride, Carpetbagger's Wife, Ardent Feminist: Letters and Diaries, 1860-1900

Emma Spaulding Bryant: Civil War Bride, Carpetbagger's Wife, Ardent Feminist: Letters and Diaries, 1860-1900

Synopsis

Emma Spaulding's life might have been the simple story of a nineteenth-century woman in rural Maine. Instead, wooed by the ambitious John Emory Bryant, the Yankee Reconstruction activist and Georgia politician, she became the Civil War bride of a Republican carpetbagger intent on reforming the South.

The grueling years in the shadow of her husband's controversial political career gave her a backbone of steel and the convictions of an early feminist. Emma supported John's agenda-to "northernize" the South and work for civil rights for African-Americans- and frequently reflected on national political events. Struggling virtually alone to rear a daughter in near poverty, Emma became an independent thinker, suffragist, and officer in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union.

In eloquent letters, Emma coached her husband's understanding of "the woman question;" their remarkable correspondence frames a marriage of love and summarizes John's career as it determined the contours of Emma's own story--from the bitter politics of Reconstruction Georgia to her world as a mother, writer, editor, and teacher in Tennessee and, with her husband, running a mission for the homeless in New York.

In this extraordinary resource, Ruth Douglas Currie organizes and edits their voluminous correspondence, enhancing the letters with an extensive introduction to Emma Spaulding Bryant's life, times, and legacy.

Excerpt

One’s initial impression of Emma Frances Spaulding assesses her as a typical woman of her century. in 1863, the dark-haired, demure college student smiled shyly for the camera, her hands folded ladylike in her lap. Surely, here was a “true woman,” ready for her task of obedience and support for the future husband who would determine the contours of her life. Doubtless she would accept passively her prescribed role, blind to the earthshaking “other civil war” emerging in the nineteenth century from the fiery pen of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the actions of other women also challenging the norms of society.

More interesting, seemingly, would be her husband, the daring John Emory Bryant, handsome and aggressive young teacher who would command African American troops during the Civil War and become one of the notorious Radical carpetbaggers who transformed Southern politics of the Reconstruction era. jeb served in the Freedmen’s Bureau and the Georgia Legislature, and was a key player in Republican politics in the state for almost thirty years. His self-defined mission to “Northernize” the South was a consuming passion as he plotted strategy, worked for equal civil rights for African American males, and wrote countless newspaper editorials and tracts on the evils of the slave society. His self-righteous, arrogant character would embroil him in endless controversy, and while his ambition for national elective office was never realized, he would hold various brief patronage positions in the South. Bryant is a fascinating study in the ambiguity of Republican politics. Was he the scoundrel his critics claimed, or an upright “political missionary” as he maintained? It would take immersion into the couple’s private lives to uncover the best, most intriguing evidence. Further knowledge would reveal Emma’s personality as vastly different from the original supposition; but indeed, the contours of her life would be determined by her husband. in a sense, she would become the conscience of the carpetbagger.

The correspondence and diaries of Emma and John provide an open window on the nineteenth century. John’s political career spanned the bedrock public issues of Reconstruction and civil rights. For Emma, the drama unfolds in the small events, the “teaspoons” of their daily existence. the reader not only . . .

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