Making War in a Space of Peace: White Southern Women's Demands for Confederate Independence
White Southern women inhabited spaces of peace, refinement, and piety, at least according to antebellum prescriptive literature. A true Southern belle valued family and spirituality, nurtured children and community, and represented the goodness of Southern plantation life. Although scholars have challenged these stereotypes by revealing the plantation mistress and her home as a scene of violence, exploitation, and patriarchy, less attention has been paid to the ways in which such women balanced their commitment to the illusion of domestic tranquility with their growing demand for secession and war following Lincoln’s election to the presidency. How did women reconcile calls for revolution and political defiance with their social role as pious, apolitical dependents? Did they merely turn to prayer and letter writing to articulate their political inclinations, or did they see these activities as an opportunity to incite political change and challenge the position of more cautious and conservative men? Confederate rhetoric emphasized the need to protect the integrity of white womanhood from the supposed tainting of abolition, integration, and violence, but did white Southern women agree and promote such ideology that relegated them to a status of beneficiaries rather than participants?
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