Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Women and Gender in the New South, 1865-1945

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Women and Gender in the New South, 1865-1945

Article excerpt

Women and Gender in the New South, 1865-1945. By Elizabeth Hayes Turner. American History Series. (Wheeling, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, c. 2009. Pp. xxiv, 271. Paper, $18.95, ISBN 978-0-88295-265-9.)

In this slim volume Elizabeth Hayes Turner surveys broad currents in the experiences of African American and white women in the South, beginning with the consequences of the Civil War and ending with an outline of the ways that World War II pointed toward racial and gender change. In its reach into a wealth of women's experiences, the book shows that there was no single southern female experience in this period, but rather that race, class, and place of residence defined individual lives and crudely differentiated one woman's life from another's. Organizationally, the book combines thematic chapters with an overall chronological order. Themes that Turner covers include the economy and women's work, reform, politics, and women in the arts.

Reflecting Turner's previous scholarship, Women and Gender in the New South, 1865-1945 brings deep coverage to the activities of urban middle-class white women. The text shows in less detail the challenges faced by the South's rural majority of African American and white women and of working-class women in the city. Amid the constraints of class and race, individual women rose to prominence in all walks of life, and their accomplishments highlight by contrast the pervasive poverty of most southerners' lives well past World War II. The reader, then, may find both inspiration and heartbreak in Turner's narrative.

Without making many direct comparisons with other places, Women and Gender in the New South demonstrates the exceptionalism of female experiences in the South and thus provides the reader with a useful counterpart to the traditional male narrative of southern history and the predominant textbook view of American women, which is based on the northern experience. …

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