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Women, War, and Gender

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Leslie Schwalm

on 28 March 2018

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Transcript of Women, War, and Gender


Dr. Mary Walker, 1st Female Surgeon
in Union Army
What is gender?
The roles, behavior, activities, capabilities and attributes that a particular society considers appropriate and "normal" for particular bodies (male and female).
the subject of social practices, power relations, rigidly-enforced expectations and norms
IDEAS ABOUT Gender structure opportunity, the distribution of power, and the division of labor in American history and contemporary society
What does war mean for women, Union and Confederate?
The dislocation of male authority and power
Masculinity and manhood gain newly politicized meanings
Women's household labor (unwaged & invisible) gains new public, political significance
Women's family ties gain new political significance
New opportunities in employment and public service
New sources of exploitation
The dislocation of authority and power invested in men

Idealized Manhood gains newly politicized meanings
Women's household labor (unwaged & invisible) gains new public, political significance and value--as do women's family ties
The war offered new opportunities for women in employment and public service
Southern White Women and the War
Helped make enlistment successful
Attacked occupying Union army
Provided material support for the CSA army
Women worked to support the war effort...
...as nurses, clerks, in munitions production, and in factories
Southern women were displaced
Southern women make themselves into a new political constituency
As war effort intervenes into households, women demand protection and rights as soldiers' wives
Are regarded as potential domestic enemies and traitors
Confederate men not "real men" (as evidenced by failure to enlist)
Confederate men
New Sources of Exploitation
Why does this matter to Civil War history?
about masculinity and femininity
shaped individual experiences of the war;
largely determined opportunities and vulnerabilities during the war;
were subject to change because of the war's impact on ideas about and experiences of gender
Sanitary Commission workers
Solders' Fairs
Northern women's wartime employment
increased rate of employment
--300,000 women enter workforce for the first time
traditional and nontraditional occupations
--outwork, textile industry, clerical labor
increased economic hardship
--wages vs. inflation
often excluded from male-led labor unions
; viewed as "reserve labor pool" -- temporary workers
Northern women's
volunteer work
How did women's organized relief work challenge ideas about women's capabilities?
local and state organizing
US Sanitary Commission
--$15 million raised in cash, goods
the "business of benevolence"
Racial exclusion and volunteerism
A southern patriot rejects a beau who was slow to enlist
Southern war workers refuse to socialize with unenlisted men
Enslaved Women and War
From the viewpoint of enslaved people: the war was about slavery
Slave Flight: 500,000 of
4 million slaves flee slavery,
offer aid to Union war effort
Army unprepared for civilian
Freedwomen perform valuable paid and unpaid labor supporting Union troops
Contraband camps and abandoned plantations
Accompanying and supporting black regiments
The laboring man idealized as the Union's strength
Associates failure to enlist with effeminacy
Re-configuring the obligations of men
Equates domestic labor with fighting in the war
Domestic labor as patriotic work
The war reconfigures women's "sphere of influence"
"Domestic labor" becomes publicly performed and observed
Patriotism symbolized by a woman
White women exclude African American women from their wartime aid work
Thinking historically about gender
war's general impact
regional impacts
Dynamic & historically-based (change over time)
Culturally specific & therefore widely varying
Defined, produced, and experienced at individual, social, and institutional levels
Why historians think about gender
women become nurses
Female Sanitary Commission Agents in the South
One of the structures of inequality: whose history is important enough to include in the classroom?
Paid less than men in same occupations
How was Southern white women's experience like, and unlike, that of women in the North?
An intersectional approach: as slaved African Americans, as civilians, as women
Full transcript