Battle Scars: Gender and Sexuality in the American Civil War

By Catherine Clinton; Nina Silber | Go to book overview

6
MARY WALKER, MARY SURRATT,
AND SOME THOUGHTS ON GENDER
IN THE CIVIL WAR

Elizabeth D. Leonard

The study of gender and the Civil War has come a long way in the last two decades. Back in the late 1980s, graduate students might take otherwise fascinating graduate seminars on the war that nevertheless completely ignored women's involvement in, and their experience of, that crucial event. In a parallel manner, equally fascinating graduate seminars on women in American history omitted virtually all references to the Civil War. Fortunately, as readers of this collection of essays clearly know, many fine scholars have been busy over the last twenty years adding significantly and expertly to our knowledge and understanding of the intersection of gender (and of women specifically) and the American Civil War.1 I hope that I, too, have contributed some valuable insights, and in the essay that follows I will ponder anew the more salient ones.

A fundamental question late twentieth-century scholars of women and the Civil War have attempted to answer is, simply, what sorts of contributions did women make to the war effort on both sides of the front, and what were the long term implications for gender conventions of women's wartime activities? For example, my first book—Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War, published in 1994—focused on two individual Northern women who represented much larger categories of Union women's Civil War service: Sophronia Bucklin, a nurse who served under the auspices of the Union army's superintendent of women nurses, Dorothea Dix; and Iowa's Annie Wittenmyer, a leader in soldiers' (or sanitary) aid, first at the state and then at the national level.2Yankee Women also

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