Yearning for Normalcy: Marriage and Gender in the Slaveholding Class During the Civil War Public Deposited

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  • February 26, 2019
  • Litke, Tyler
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • This thesis seeks to examine gender relations and the overall controlling structure of paternalism in the nineteenth-century South through the lens of southern couples’ experiences in the Civil War. As Faust has noted, the breakdown in paternalistic social structure during the Civil War forced women to directly consider their place in society.10 I seek to understand the ways in which women thought about and communicated this change to their husbands. With men gone, women were left to step into male roles that felt entirely foreign. The extent and severity of a woman’s wartime responsibility varied considerably across class lines, especially at the beginning of the war. Many women found themselves alone to manage businesses, farms, plantations, and even slaves. Women of the slaveholding class sometimes chose to move in with extended family or remain at home but hire an overseer or invite relatives to live with them.11 The women who took on these new responsibilities alone faced the biggest breakdown in southern paternalistic structure. They assumed a masculine role that was entirely separate from their prewar experience. At the same time, they were still expected to achieve the ideals of their own gender. Women faced the insurmountable challenge of balancing new masculine roles with incompatible feminine ones.
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  • In Copyright
  • Funding: None
  • Barney, William
  • Bachelor of Arts
Honors level
  • Honors
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 83

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