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Women and the American Civil War (December 2015): Gender Matters

by Elizabeth A. Novara

Gender Matters

While many of the books mentioned in this essay incorporate the concept of gender into their arguments, there are several important essay compilations that use gender as an organizing concept and as a category for historical analysis.  These compilations provide excellent introductions to questions about gender and Civil War history for undergraduates, and are also important works for scholars to consider.  Editors Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber’s Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War introduces important essays on a wide variety of women’s issues related to the war, and also examines the concept of gender roles and attitudes about sexuality.  The contributors look at how gender roles fluctuated during the war for both men and women, and how women’s roles shifted to accommodate public and political work.  Gender Matters: Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Making of the New South by LeeAnn Whites also looks closely at gender roles and relations, but with a focus on Southern history.  Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber’s edited Battle Scars: Gender and Sexuality in the American Civil War discusses how gender studies have changed Civil War scholarship, especially in the realm of sexuality.  Silber provides an exceptional overview of the state of the field in an introductory essay, “Colliding and Collaborating: Gender and Civil War Scholarship.”  She also delivers some additional reflections on gender and the Civil War in her published lectures titled Gender and the Sectional Conflict.  Finally, editors LeeAnn Whites and Alecia P. Long introduce the multiple meanings of occupation and geography in a collection of essays related to gender roles.  Occupied Women: Gender, Military Occupation, and the American Civil War argues for restructuring Civil War histories to a broader definition of assumed geographies, including the merging of battlefront and home front, and includes a variety of women’s perspectives.

Works Cited