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Women and the American Civil War (December 2015): Young Women

by Elizabeth A. Novara

Young Women

Historians have started to investigate age as a category of analysis in Civil War women’s and gender history.  The Confederate Belle by Giselle Roberts looks at the politics of loyalty and honor through the lens of age.  Specifically, Roberts focuses on teenage girls and young women who were ages fifteen to twenty-five in Mississippi and Louisiana.  She believes that historians have neglected the role of age and of Southern honor in influencing Southern women’s roles and decisions during the war.  Her main argument is that belles did not typically see the world as politically charged as did their mothers or older women, and that these young women did not adapt as easily to the patriotic feminine ideal that was expected of them during the war.  Victoria Ott also employs age as a category of analysis in her work Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War.  Although Ott considers younger girls, from ages twelve to eighteen, she comes to many of the same conclusions as Roberts.  Both Roberts and Ott, along with many of the historians mentioned in this essay, insist that women’s quotidian actions could and did become politicized.  Anya Jabour also includes a chapter on young women and the war in Scarlett’s Sisters: Young Women in the Old South.  A more general work focusing on children and youth that has some relevant content on girls and young women, including a look at courtship, is James Marten’s Children and Youth during the Civil War Era.

Works Cited