Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front

Article excerpt

Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front. By Judith Giesberg. Civil War America. (Chapel Hill: University of Noah Carolina Press, c. 2009. Pp. [xiv], 232. $35.00, ISBN 978-0-8078-3307-0.)

In Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front, Judith Giesberg looks deeper into the northern female public to consider the stories of frequently marginalized women who responded to the exigencies of war by remapping their political, social, and economic spaces. In an original and fascinating contribution to the trend in Civil War studies that seeks to blur the traditional distinctions between the home front and the battlefield, Giesberg focuses on groups of women who left few individual memoirs but who nevertheless refused to stand still as the war impinged on their economic well-being and spilled over into the everyday lives of their families and communities. The women documented here were neither passive victims of wartime deprivation nor part of a united patriotic front. They are brought together by their appearance in new spaces, where their presence contradicted antebellum markers of race, class, and gender and northern free labor ideology.

Giesberg's narrative covers a wide range both geographically and topically, but in each instance the author complicates the image of women tending the domestic hearth while their male relatives went off to war. From San Francisco to Philadelphia, farm women to factory workers, and draft resisters to civil rights activists, the subjects of Giesberg's book were literally on the move. They engaged the demands and conditions of war-making by showing up in munitions factories, in segregated streetcars, in urban riots, on relief rolls, and in search of the dead. …

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