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Civil War Wives: The Lives and Times of Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis, and Julia Dent Grant (Borzoi Books) Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 8, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The wives of abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld, Confederacy president Jefferson Davis and Union commander Ulysses S. Grant don't fit comfortably between one book's covers. Though they lived during roughly the same period, they differed in disposition, situation aspiration and gifts. But Baruch College and CUNY Graduate Center historian Berkin (Revolutionary Mothers) isn't out to create a group portrait. Instead, she wants to catch the realities of three privileged, yet restricted women and thus to reveal how even the most fortunate of wives—at least fortunate in the importance and celebrity of their husbands—struggled, not always successfully, to face down the difficulties of their sex. In this, Berkin is entirely successful. Her engaging prose and sympathetic posture bring the three women vividly to life. Weld, Davis and Grant were unrepresentative in their marriages but typical in their struggles to use their sharp minds to break free of the era's restrictions on married women. Even if they weren't, contrary to Berkin's hackneyed word, heroes, they pointed the way to what women's lives might—and eventually did—become. 6 photos. (Sept. 9)
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Review

"A Fascinating and lively narrative"— The Christian Science Monitor
 
"Thoroughly fascinating. . . . belongs on the bookshelf of all Civil War enthusiasts, right next to the biographies of Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, and Mary Lincoln."— Jay Winik, author of April 1865 and The Great Upheaval 
 
"Using letters, books and other historical documents, Berkin paints a lively and empathetic picture of these women's lives."— St. Petersburg Times
 
"A well written, highly accessible exploration of marriage and the cult of true womanhood as it played out in the lives of three southern women. Berkin's fascinating case studies . . . reveal the complex interplay out in the lives of southern women of the Civil War era."— Civil War Book Review 


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Product Details

  • Series: Borzoi Books
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400044464
  • ASIN: B005UVZOUA
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,431,516 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By rebelmomof2 VINE VOICE on January 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an incredible read. Normally, when I read nonfiction/history books, I would often find my eyes crossing while reading different names and places among the mumble and jumbles ... but not this time. This author, Ms. Berkin, has brought these three women (that I really didn't know anything about) and their differences and unique temperaments alive in these pages. The only thing these women have in common is the fact that they were born and raised in slave-holding families of the South. The Civil War affected each of them in different ways. They all were married to famous men, strong leaders in their own rights.

History is often mute on the subject of women and how they view wars in their lifetimes. Ms. Berkin brought these women's voices alive.

I have to say that I really enjoyed getting to know each of these women in these pages. I would now think that Mrs. Weld is really the forerunner of the feminism movement that took off in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She and her sister were fighting hard in their days to allow their voices to be heard. They also balanced traditional housewifery chores alongside with raising kids and teaching their kids as well as other kids ... bringing the realities of housewifery as a lot of work back then across to the modern readers (I definitely appreciate my washer and dryer now!). It never occurred to them or to Mrs. Weld's husband, that there is a need for balancing the housework along with going on the lecture circuit among the three of them. It is an interesting biography to read.

Mrs. Davis is a strong woman tempered by her genteel upbringing where women are encouraged to think that their husbands are the mainstays of the household and yet she struggled with it since she was a very intelligent woman.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Good read. Three women who had up close and personal views of the Civil War and the movements that led to it. The era did not encourage Southern women to be educated, intellectual or interested in the issues of the day. In fact Angela Grimke and Varina Davis were disliked and persecuted by the public for not fitting the Southern belle model of womanhood. They endured years of personal hardships and unhappiness when for not fitting the model. But they stood for something greater than themselves. On the other hand Julia Grant was the model Southern belle only concerned with her family's happiness and she was very popular. Women who behave themselves do not change the world. Angela Grimke and Varina Davis did their bit to show how capable women could be
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book, it was well written and interesting. There were two glaring errors in the text though that make me question the research. On page 165 she refers to William McClellan's Peninsular Campaign. Uh, that would be George B. McClellan not William, arghhh. Later on page 279, Salmon Chase is referred to as Samuel Chase. These errors are glaring to anyone with even a passing interest in the history of the American Civil War and I was shocked to see them. Don't know whether to blame the publisher or the author but it makes me suspicious of the fact checking done on this publication.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a terrific read. It was recommended by a friend and I'm glad I followed her advice. Berkin researched her subjects thoroughly, using archives, diaries, letters and yet was able to deliver a very readable, interesting book, seamlessly woven together into a portrait of most of the 19th century, highlighting the attitudes and conditions women faced. Women today have most likely never heard of Weld, Davis, or Grant, and yet so much is owed to them and others like them.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I certainly enjoyed this book, and I can appreciate the time and research that went into writing it. There was a lot of information about the political lives of Jeff Davis and Ulysses Grant, perhaps more than I wanted to read. I realize that it was a necessary part of telling the women's history, but I would have been happy with less politics and more personal info about the women's lives. All things considered it was a worthwhile read, but it could have been better had it focused more on the women and less on their husbands.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Carol Berkin is my historian heroine! She's an excellent writer with a straightforward style. This book is well researched and easy reading. I teach history but this is more depth than I can really use in my survey classes so it's more for my own personal education and interest.
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Format: Paperback
The author's research was well-done and the book is generally an easy-to-follow read. The author's use of quotations (presumably from her subjects) as chapter titles and then not identifying the quotations in the text was a bit aggravating. The author traces the lives of three women and that of the first, Angelina Grimke Weld, though interesting really did not at all fit into the theme implied by the book's title. The presentation of the lives of Varina Howell (Mrs. Jefferson) Davis and Julia Dent (Mrs. Ulysses S.) Grant was well done and adds much to understanding how these wives supported their husbands in their endeavors. They were both remarkable women who grew and overcame the roles cast for women in that day and time. You really have to admire Mrs. Davis and Mrs. Grant. The last two-thirds of this book are well worth the reading for a greater understanding of two of the Civil War's principal figures.
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