From Publishers Weekly
Although Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton and Anna Dickinson have cameo roles, Civil War historian Silber reaches far deeper than such star turns to address "the diminishing place of Union women in American memory," the corollary that their commitment was "lackluster" and the domestic fallout of their involvement—"the expansion of the nation-state into the lives of ordinary Americans citizens." Relying heavily on letters and diaries, Silber's scholarly account is solidly informative for the serious historian and quite accessible for general history buffs and students. As primary breadwinners go off to war, women serve as fund-raisers, post mistresses, suppliers, nurses, government workers and teachers. That's a familiar enough story, but with a greater public role, women find "their personal, intimate relationships subjected to intense... scrutiny, not only from neighbors and kin but also from state and federal officials." Those who work as nurses are "required to be plain looking women." The result, Silber argues, was a change in the way marriage's regulatory function worked in society in ways that continue to reverberate through homes and jobs. In this provocative, challenging work, Silber writes ordinary women onto the page and reshapes the boundaries of Civil War history. Her attention to the presence of Northern black women is particularly noteworthy. (May)
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Although Civil War literature abounds, relatively little has been written about the roles many Northern women played in the conflict. With the exception of such legendary figures as Clara Barton and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and unlike their Southern counterparts, these otherwise ordinary women have not been portrayed as active participants in the war effort. Silber seeks to rectify this oversight by providing a fascinating accounting of the economic, social, and political challenges met and overcome by patriotic Union women in both the domestic and the civic spheres. Perhaps most significantly, the author also traces the tentative roots of the female political activism that manifested itself in the suffrage and temperance movements of the late nineteenth century to the new identities forged by Yankee women during the war years. This worthy contribution to the scholarship and popular culture of the Civil War will also appeal to women's historians. Margaret FlanaganCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved