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

  • LeeAnn Whites

Abstract

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

Keywords

White Woman Gender Matter Memorial Association Racial Terrorism Domestic Relation 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    Anne Firor Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal to Politics, 1830–1930 (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  2. Jean Friedman, The Enclosed Garden: Women and Community in the Evangelical South, 1830–1900 (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1985)Google Scholar
  3. Jean Bethe Eltshain, Women and War (New York, Basic Books, 1987)Google Scholar
  4. George Rable, Civil Wars: Women and the Crisis of Southern Nationalism (Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    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
  6. 4.
    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
  7. LeeAnn Whites, The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender: Augusta, Georgia, 1860–1890 (Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, 1995).Google Scholar
  8. 5.
    For an extensive discussion of the history of Confederate monuments, see Gaines Foster, Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause and the Emergence of the New South (New York, Oxford University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Among historians of southern women, Jean Friedman contends that in the postwar period white womens’ wartime organizations disappeared entirely. Historians of the Confederate memorial tradition are similarly inclined to ignore the very existence of the Ladies Memorial Association. See Gerald Linderman, Embattled Courage: The Experience of Combat in the American Civil War (New York, Free Press, 1987), 266–297Google Scholar
  10. Charles Reagan Wilson, Baptized in Blood: Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865–1920 (Athens, GA, University of Georgia Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  11. 10.
    Anne Firor Scott notes the connection between the soldiers’ aid societies and the Ladies Memorial Associations in Natural Allies: Womens’ Associations in American History (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1991). The Augusta, GA, Columbus, GA, Charleston, SC, Montgomery, AL, and Raleigh, NC associations all follow this pattern. For a further discussion of these cases, see Charles Colcock Jones and Salem Dutcher, Memorial History of Augusta, Georgia (Syracuse, NY, D. Mason, 1890), 181Google Scholar
  12. Marielou Armstrong Cory, The Ladies Memorial Association of Montgomery, Alabama, 1860–1870 (Montgomery, Alabama printers Co., 1902)Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    For a further discussion of the relationship between southern white mens’ position as heads of household and their “liberties” in the antebellum South, see Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 37–99Google Scholar
  14. Stephanie McCurry, Masters of Small Worlds: Yeoman Households, Gender Relations, and the Political Culture of the South Carolina Low Country (New York, Oxford University Press, 1995), 37–91.Google Scholar
  15. 20.
    For example, see Rebecca Latimer Felton, Country Life in the Days of My Youth (Atlanta, Index Printing Company, 1919), 95–107Google Scholar
  16. 22.
    Susan Lawrence Davis, Authentic History of the Ku Klux Klan, 1865–1877 (New York, American Library Service, 1924), 8.Google Scholar
  17. John C. Lester and Daniel L. Wilson, Ku Klux Klan: Its Origin, Growth and Disbandment (New York, The Neale Publishing Company, 1905)Google Scholar
  18. Stanley F. Horn, Invisible Empire (Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1939)Google Scholar
  19. Walter L. Fleming, The Sequel of Appomattox (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1919)Google Scholar
  20. William Randall, The Ku Klux Klan: A Century of Infamy (Philadelphia, Chilton Books, 1965)Google Scholar
  21. Allen Trelease, White Terror: The Ku Klux Klan Conspiracy and Southern Reconstruction (New York, Harper & Row, 1971).Google Scholar
  22. 23.
    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
  23. 25.
    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
  24. 30.
    For a further discussion of this theory, see Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics (Boston, Small, Maynard & Company, 1898)Google Scholar

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© LeeAnn Whites 2005

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  • LeeAnn Whites

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