Gender and the Sectional Conflict

By Nina Silber

Gender and the Sectional Conflict

144 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, 14 illus., notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2707-6
    Published: June 2015

Steven and Janice Brose Lectures in the Civil War Era

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In an insightful exploration of gender relations during the Civil War, Nina Silber compares broad ideological constructions of masculinity and femininity among Northerners and Southerners. She argues that attitudes about gender shaped the experiences of the Civil War's participants, including how soldiers and their female kin thought about their "causes" and obligations in wartime. Despite important similarities, says Silber, differing gender ideologies shaped the way each side viewed, participated in, and remembered the war.

Silber finds that rhetoric on both sides connected soldiers' reasons for fighting to the women left at home. Consequently, although in different ways, women on both sides took up new roles to advance the wartime agenda. At the same time, both Northern and Southern women were accused of waning patriotism as the war dragged on, but their responses to such charges differed. Finally, noting that our postwar memories are often dominated by images of Southern belles, Silber considers why Northern women, despite their heroic contributions to the Union cause, have faded from Civil War memory.

Silber's investigation offers a new understanding of how Unionists and Confederates perceived their reasons for fighting, of the new attitudes and experiences that women--black and white--on both sides took up, and of the very different ways that Northern and Southern women were remembered after the war ended.

About the Author

Nina Silber is professor of history at Boston University. She is author or editor of seven other books, including The Romance of Reunion: Northerners and the South, 1865-1900 (from the University of North Carolina Press).
For more information about Nina Silber, visit the Author Page.


"A brilliant exploration of the role of gender in the Civil War."--Journal of Southern History

"A valuable contribution to the role that gender played during the Civil War era [that helps] to bring a more comparative approach to Civil War home-front studies. . . . Silber has succeeded in reiterating the important link between home front and battle field and its comparative significance for how soldiers and civilians understood, participated in, and remembered the Civil War."--West Virginia History

"A significant, useful, and insightful synthesis of more than two decades of scholarship [that is] just as valuable for pushing at the boundaries of our knowledge about how gender ideology shaped American politics and culture."--The Annals of Iowa

"Different and compelling. . . . Skillfully integrates much recent Civil War historiography . . . while providing a concise, readable narrative suitable for undergraduate classrooms."--Maryland Historical Magazine

"[An] insightful and convincing work. . . . Carefully presents a balanced account of ideology of gender on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. . . . Adds significantly to our understanding of masculinity and femininity during the nineteenth century."--Louisiana History

"An insightful exploration of gender relations during the Civil War."--The Courier