Women During the Civil War: An Encyclopedia is the first A to Z reference volume to offer a panoramic presentation of American women during the most turbulent era in U. S. history. Previous works have focused solely on the lives of women who contributed to or were affected by the war itself. This encyclopedia examines the experiences of women from all regions, races, classes, and leading ethnic groups (Irish, German, Norwegian, Jewish, Chinese) during the years 1861 to 1865, including those whose lives were relatively untouched by war. Drawing on a vast collection of sources from the nineteenth century to the present day, from Louisa May Alcott’s Hospital Days (1863) to Lauren Cook and DeAnne Blanton’s They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War (2002), this book presents the wartime experiences of white women of the North and South, African-American women born free and in slavery, Native American women, Mexican-American women, frontier women of the West, and immigrant women.
The articles in this book may surprise readers, regardless of their level of familiarity with U. S. history. Persistent popular conceptions of the Civil War and of nineteenth-century American society do not recognize women as having been integral participants. Facts and folklore about men’s contributions to the Civil War—sensationalized and romanticized in movies, television, and literature—are well documented and loom large in the nation’s collective memory. The generals, soldiers, and battles are well known to most Americans. Yet, despite the contributions of tens of thousands of women, the general public is aware of the war work of only a handful—Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman, Mary Boykin Chesnut, Louisa May Alcott, or Julia Ward Howe. Although relatively little has been reported on the roles of women, many thousands of women nurses and hundreds of female soldiers risked their lives for the United States and the Confederate States of America. Tens of thousands of other women in the North and the South labored within soldiers’ aid societies to provide food, clothing, and comfort to the troops. Thousands of women in the North were outspoken about slavery and worked toward emancipation as abolitionists, orators, writers, and artists. In the South, women from all classes actively supported the Confederacy as novelists, writers, government workers, factory women, and agricultural workers.
The words of the women who endured the Civil War years were vital to the research of the essays in this book. Women’s diaries and correspondence, both published and unpublished, bring to light their daily activities, the issues that troubled and captivated them, the values that centered their lives, and the emotions that revealed their hearts. The examination of women’s Civil War era pamphlets, memoirs, newspaper accounts, essays, and fiction makes