The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

Children in Wartime

What did the Harper’s Magazine essay say about Southern women?

“We may overrun the South,” the essay declared, “we may make its fields a desolation, and its cities heaps of ruins, but until we reach the reason and the hearts of these men, we shall stand ever on the crater of a volcano.” The answer was to educate the Southerners, with a gun in one hand and Yankee newspapers in the other, but to make a special effort where Southern women were concerned.

“If we convert them, the country is saved. Woman, in this century, is every where that ‘power behind the throne’ which is mightier than the throne itself, and the Southern women have been, and are, the mainspring of this rebellion.” Just three years earlier, rather few Northerners would have subscribed to this view: they had seen Southern women as the mere tools of Southern men. But as the war continued and became more grim, quite a few Northerners came to the conclusion that Southern women were indeed at the heart of the rebellion. They did not raise guns; they did not have to. The mere fact that they endorsed the war, and told their husbands to go to the front, was evidence of their importance.


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