The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

Children in Wartime

How does this account jibe, or not jibe, with our traditional view of the placid Southern woman?

Stereotypes such as that of the accepting, even downtrodden, Southern woman do not emerge out of thin air: usually some substance is behind the image. That particular stereotype comes to us, however, from the diaries and letters of “proper” Southern women, who usually did not have to fight to obtain their daily bread (even though some of them would later be reduced to a similar state). In order to obtain a fuller look at Southern women, we have to go beyond the “belle of the ball” image many of us have gained from films and novels.

The life that Scarlett O’Hara—the heroine of Gone with the Wind—lost when the federal army entered Atlanta was real, but it was only enjoyed by a few thousand women at the most. Far more common was the wife of a dirt farmer in Alabama, the woman who had lost her husband to a duel, or the aging spinster who could find no mate. Again, this does not mean we should “cancel” our view of the traditional Southern woman; rather, we should build upon and enlarge it.


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