Synopses & Reviews
No American needs to be told that the Civil War brought the United States to a critical juncture in its history. The war changed forever the face of the nation, the nature of American politics, the status of African-Americans, and the daily lives of millions of people. Yet few of us understand how the war transformed gender roles and attitudes toward sexuality among American citizens. Divided Houses
is the first book to address this sorely neglected topic, showing how the themes of gender, class, race, and sexuality interacted to forge the beginnings of a new society.
In this unique volume, historians Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber bring together a wide spectrum of critical viewpoints--all written by eminent scholars--to show how gender became a prism through which the political tensions of antebellum America were filtered and focused. For example, Divided Houses demonstrates that the abolitionist movement was strongly allied with nineteenth-century feminism, and shows how the ensuing debates over sectionalism and, eventually, secession, were often couched in terms of gender. Northerners and Southerners alike frequently ridiculed each other as "effeminate": slaveowners were characterized by Yankees as idle and useless aristocrats, enfeebled by their "peculiar institution"; northerners were belittled as money-grubbers who lacked the masculine courage of their southern counterparts.
Through the course of the book, many fascinating subjects are explored, such as the new "manly" responsibilities both black and white men had thrust upon them as soldiers; the effect of the war on Southern women's daily actions on the homefront; the essential part Northern women played as nurses and spies; the war's impact on marriage and divorce; women's roles in the guerilla fighting; even the wartime dialogue on interracial sex. There is also a rare look at how gender affected the experience of freedom for African-American children, a discussion of how Harriet Beecher Stowe attempted to distract both her readers and herself from the ravages of war through the writing of romantic fiction, and a consideration of the changing relations between black men and a white society which, during the war, at last forced to confront their manhood. In addition, an incisive introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James McPherson helps place these various subjects in an overall historical context.
Nowhere else are such topics considered in a single, accessible volume. Divided Houses sheds new light on the entire Civil War experience--from its causes to its legacy--and shows how gender shaped both the actions and attitudes of those who participated in this watershed event in the history of America.
"Excellent--exactly what I was looking for."--Gretchen Green, Rockhurst College
"Offers a broader, more diverse view of the Civil War than previous volumes."--The Journal of Mississippi History
"Excellent collection--more of the same needs to be published!"--Mort Stewart, Western Washington University
"The essays make us think, provoke us to question. In a class of neo-Confederate Virginians, what better book to use! I love it."--John Herbert Roper, Emory and Hery College
"Excellent"--K.M.Startup, Williams Baptist College
"An excellent example of social history and its many possibilities. A major void in Civil War history has now been admirably filled."--William R. Wantland, Northwest Nazarene College
"[A] Highly original and pathbreaking collection of essays....the essays are especially valuable because they treat the experiences of ordinary people--black and white, male and female--in both North and South....The editors' introduction and epilog and an extensive bibliography make this an especially useful source for scholars and teachers."--Library Journal
"Finally the study of gender is out of the Civil War closet. Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber have collected the latest and best historical essays of the emerging scholarship on the social history of the Civil War. Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War ranges from issues of masculinity and femininity to the effect of war on African-American children. This is a thoroughly useful, entirely readable, historically notable volume stitched together by the perceptive commentary of the author-editors."--Jean H. Baker, Goucher College
"Wonderful to have information both men and women, black and white, north and south, masculinity and feminity, individuals and households--all in one place."--Marilyn Dell, Virginia Wesleyan College
"Divided Houses should be required reading for all interested in how gender influences historical events, not just for students of the Civil War....[it] proves that exhaustively-mined evidence can still yield new insights when carefully considered."--Wanda Ellen Wakefield, Southern Historian
About the Author
is Visiting Professor of African-American Studies at Harvard University. She is the author of The Plantation Mistress: Woman's World in the Old South
, The Other Civil War: American Women in the Nineteenth Century
, and Portraits of American Women
(with G.B. Barker-Benfeld).
Nina Silber is Assistant Professor of History at Boston University and is the author of the forthcoming The Romance of Reunion: Northerners and the South, 1865-1900.