August 17, 2011

Northern Women, Patriotism, and the Civil War

The Consecration, 1861 by George Cochran Lambdin / Indianapolis Museum of Art, James E. Roberts Fund (71.179)

For Northern women, the Civil War was remarkable as the impetus for their developing a patriotism very different from anything before the war.  Women who sent husbands and sons to fight against an enemy based on the political ideal of preserving the Union--instead of simply defending hearth and home, like Confederate women--suddenly had to develop a sort of personal political philosophy to internally justify why fighting the war was worthwhile.  Their relationship as individuals to the nation became relevant, and the war brought with it a new role for women in the public sphere.  I'll refer to Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War by Nina Silber to more fully characterize and document this important transformation.  (Here's a review of the book, if you're looking for a summary.)

As part of this change, men began to care more about women's political views, specifically their level of support for the war effort.  J.M.W. Geist, editor of the pro-Lincoln Daily Evening Express, characterizes this level of support as patriotic loyalty, and here is a story from that paper on August 17, 1861 (alternate link):


  1. [Comment relocated from Contact Me page]


    Thank you so very much for your presentation on Northern women during the Civil War...ones constantly hears of the Southern Belle or the Lost Cause Ladies...I think I will purchase that book you had listed.

    Best Wishes,

  2. Great, I'm sure you'll enjoy the book, Audrey.