“Stand By Your Man”: The Ladies Memorial Association and the Reconstruction of Southern White Manhood

  • LeeAnn Whites


Two days after Robert E. Lee signed the armistice with Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, signifying the end of the long and bitter Civil War, the Augusta Chronicle, a major southern newspaper, published an editorial entitled “Female Influence and Energy.” The author argued that women were much better suited to withstand lifes’ failures and defeats than men: “Those disasters which break down the spirit of man and prostrate him in the dust seem to call forth all the energies of the softer sex.” While single men who encountered defeat in life were apt to descend into “waste and self neglect,” the spirits of married men were sustained by the influence of this positive “female energy.” “Relieved by domestic endearments and self respect,” defeated men could be “kept alive by finding that, though abroad may be all darkness and humiliation, yet there is still a little world at home of which he is monarch.”1


White Woman Gender Matter Memorial Association Racial Terrorism Domestic Relation 
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  1. 2.
    Anne Firor Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830–1930 (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1971).Google Scholar
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    One notable exception is Suzanne Lebsock, whose Free Women of Petersburg: Status and Culture in a Southern Town, 1784–1860 (New York, Norton, 1984)Google Scholar
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    Historians of gender roles have now begun to consider how the war affected southern white men. See, e.g., Nina Silber, “Intemperate Men, Spiteful Women, and Jefferson Davis,” and Victoria Bynum, “Reshaping the Bonds of Womanhood: Divorce in Reconstruction North Carolina,” in Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War, Clinton and Silber, eds. (New York, Oxford University Press, 1992), 283–305Google Scholar
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    H. Grady McWhiney and Francis B. Simkins make a strong case, using interviews with Klan victims from the U.S. congressional investigation conducted in 1871, that the black population was not taken in by this “ghostly” attire but rather feared the violence employed by the Klan against them. See McWhiney and Simkins, “The Ghostly Legend of the KKK,” Negro History Bulletin 16 (1950–1951): 109–111. See also Gladys-Marie Fry, Night Riders in Black Folk History (Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 1975).Google Scholar
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    Lester and Wilson, Ku Klux Klan: Its Origin, Growth and Disbandment and John C. Reed, The Brothers’ War (Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1905) were both participant accounts. Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Romine, History of the Original Ku Klux Klan (Pulaski, TN, Pulaski Citizen, 1934)Google Scholar
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© LeeAnn Whites 2005

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  • LeeAnn Whites

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