Arms and the Woman: War, Gender, and Literary Representation

By Helen M. Cooper; Adrienne Auslander Munich et al. | Go to book overview

Without protection, privilege was a thing of the past. Thus language as the agent of social convention (i.e., the customs and behavioral patterns that empowered privilege) lost its combative force. And one wonders if, for at least a portion of these women, the end of the war was prefigured in their verbal acquiescence. When Confederate military officials despaired of making any strategic headway in the last year of the war, it had been the women who spurred them on. With language as ammunition, women might wage war indefinitely. But their emotional exhaustion, their utter dejection in the wake of Sherman's army silenced them. If language no longer carried the power to console them, then the invaders had robbed them not only of worldly goods but of their will to defend themselves.

In thus acknowledging their defenselessness, women in the path of Sherman's great march to the sea recognized the failure of social convention, as they knew it, to provide form and structure in daily life. On the Monday after Federal forces pulled out of Columbia, one diarist wrote, "A dead and solemn silence seemed to have fallen upon the town. No sound of wheels or horse-hoofs. There was nothing left to disturb the mournful silence."45 Without the social structure that assured them protection and without the forms in language that had sustained them early on in their struggles with the enemy, Southern women for the first time during the war acknowledged defeat in silence.


Notes
1.
Sherman, Memoirs, 2:254.
2.
Although General Order No. 100, Instruction for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field, specified that no civilian should be harmed, Sherman interpreted this order in his own way. See Walters, Merchant of Terror, xi-xiii.
3.
Although war historians have depicted Southern women as goading their men to remain at the front, women's testimony, beginning with the siege of Atlanta in the summer of 1864, provides evidence to the contrary. See Julia Davidson's letters to John Mitchell Davidson, July and August, 1864; and Kate Whitehead Rowland Journal, entries of July 1864.
4.
For a discussion of the gendered relationship between the protector and the protected, see Stiehm, "The Protected, the Protector, the Defender."
5.
Sarah Tillinghast Reminiscence, 31-32.
6.
Kate Whitehead Rowland Journal, Nov. 29, 1864.

-75-

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Arms and the Woman: War, Gender, and Literary Representation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Notes xix
  • War and Memory 1
  • Arms and the Woman: The Con[tra]ception of the War Text 9
  • Notes 23
  • Works Cited 23
  • "Still Wars and Lechery": Shakespeare and the Last Trojan Woman 25
  • Notes 39
  • Works Cited 40
  • Rewriting History: Madame de Villedieu and the Wars of Religion 43
  • Notes 55
  • Works Cited 57
  • Southern Women's Diaries of Sherman's March to the Sea, 1864-1865 59
  • Notes 75
  • Works Cited 77
  • Civil Wars and Sexual Territories 80
  • Notes 95
  • Works Cited 96
  • The Women and Men of 1914 97
  • Notes 118
  • Corpus/Corps/Corpse: Writing the Body in/at War 124
  • Notes 159
  • Works Cited 164
  • May Sinclair's The Tree of Heaven: The Vortex of Feminism, the Community of War 168
  • Notes 179
  • Works Cited 182
  • Combat Envy and Survivor Guilt: Willa Cather's "Manly Battle Yarn" 184
  • Notes 201
  • Works Cited 203
  • "Seeds for the Sowing": The Diary of Käthe Kollwitz 205
  • Notes 221
  • Works Cited 223
  • A Needle with Mama's Voice: Mitsuye Yamada's Camp Notes and the American Canon of War Poetry 225
  • Notes 241
  • Feminism, the Great War, and Modern Vegetarianism 244
  • Images of Love and War in Contemporary Israeli Fiction: A Feminist Re-vision 268
  • Notes 277
  • Works Cited 280
  • Nuclear Domesticity: Sequence and Survival 283
  • Notes 299
  • "Epitaphs and Epigraphs: 'The End(s) of Man'" 303
  • Notes 319
  • Works Cited 321
  • A Bibliography of Secondary Sources 323
  • The Contributors 331
  • Index 335
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