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Showing 1-10 of 28 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 49 reviews
on October 3, 2012
I had to read this book for my History 497 class at Southeastern Louisiana University and I must say it was a good read. I actually enjoyed reading a book that I was forced to read. Ms Faust shows us a different side of the Civil War and the women who lived through it in the South. Much of the book is about the Elite Southern White Women who were left behind to take care of everything at home. It shows how many of them struggled with the new life that was thrust upon them by having to take up tasks that they had never done before. Many were left to run the planataions which they had no idea how to do. These "elite" women learned the hard way how hard life can be.
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VINE VOICEon October 24, 2000
Starting with the haunting faces of the young women who are pictured on the cover, to the many illustrations through out, we learn of the thoughts and activities that occupied the daily lives of the women of the Confederacy. This book is filled with wonderful diary excerpts, parts of letters and interesting photographs. Through these means we are given an insightful look at the way Southern women lived during the most tragic of times, our American Civil War.

I've read a great deal about this particular era, but learned so much from this book. For instance, I had no idea that many men wanted their wives to accompany them off to war. Some of these women did just that and lamented about leaving their children behind with relatives. One young woman said that her husband was "ordering me to Mississippi" in the summer of 1862, and how brokenhearted she was because she feared that her baby would forget her while she was away.

Another interesting fact was that numerous ladies wrote personal letters to President Jefferson Davis and requested that their husbands or sons be sent home because they were needed by their families. Other ladies wrote directly to their husbands and clearly told them they had given enough effort to the war, and it was time to come home.

Some of the other information that is discussed is how women were often forced to move in with relatives and how their days were filled with unfamiliar work. They also were required, with very little experience, to manage their slave labor and operate plantations or farms. Some women seemed to enjoy the challenge, and for others the burden was too much.

The blockade of goods going to the South was another problem to deal with because so many of the items of necessity were manufactured in the North. One of the reasons that the hoop skirt went out of fashion was because a vast amount of material was needed to cover a hoop. Cloth was so scarse that the ladies were making it themselves, and there was little to spare for elaborate clothing. Even the hoops were no longer obtainable after they wore out. Working hard and making do became the way to survive and these women became the mothers of invention.

Drew Gilpin Faust has done an enormous amount of research in compiling all of this information and I believe that it was a labor of love and she is to be commended. I will admit that at times I thought her writing style was a little stiff, and I sometimes resented the conclusions that she made. I thought that the material spoke for itself and needed very little explanation. These are minor criticisms because she has put together a unique and wonderful book.

I believe this book will stand the test of time, and be read for many years to come.I chose it to be read by my book group and it generated a lively discussion and we all felt we benefited by reading it.
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on September 9, 2014
What a great book this is. Engaging, well-documented and very readable. The book presents insights into the immense impact of the Civil War on Southern women. After reading so many CW books on military themes (famous battles, military strategy, generals...) it was enlightening to read this book and get a glimpse of the CW from a dimension (southern white women) that I had never thought of.
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on January 22, 2015
The knowledge from this book enabled me to speak in front of, to, and with a group of middle school students for an hour. They loved it and so did I. This is not easy reading, but it is chocked full of information about the Civil War politics, women, slaves, soldiers, and on and on. Thanks to Dr. Faust for all her research.
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on May 10, 2015
Great insight into the hearts of the Confederate women who had to bear so much during the war. They loved their men and their Southern lives and they lost so much. Yet many of them were able to rally around what their new world would be by adapting and overcoming the odds. Very good read!
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on March 28, 2008
Mothers of Invention is a book by Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust (historian), who was appointed President of Harvard University in February 2007. This book is an excellent adjunct to any college level class on the Civil War period. Faust researched the letters, diaries and journals of 500 elite southern white women, to determine the impact of the Civil War on them and their families. Her research shows how they were affected by the war, as well as how they impacted the attitudes of their men, particularly the soldiers. It also discusses the positive and negative aspects of how they affected the Confederate States of America.

You should read this book both for its new contributions to the history of the Civil War, as well as the unique revelations. Even though most Confederate women were supportive of the Civil War when it started, this book shows that pre-war elites had been placed on so high a pedestal that they were totally unprepared to do even routine things, such as cooking and sewing. When the slave masters and overseers left the plantation for the battlefield, the elites were abandoned to run large plantations, utilizing slaves who were, at best, apathetic towards their leadership, and at worst, openly rebellious. As the war continued, the situation of the women worsened because of deaths, food and clothing shortages, inflation, runaway and recalitrant slaves, and Yankee incursions into the South. After four years of war, the elite women came to hate the war as much as the soldiers who fought and died in large numbers.

Once you read this outstanding book, you will understand how poorly prepared the South was to fight a Civil War that lasted more than a year. You will understand why elite southern white women grew to hate this war, that changed the lives of women forever. Women learned that they were capable of doing jobs from which they had previously been excluded. The only problem with this book is that makes you want to do even more research into related issues.
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on February 10, 2010
Drew Gilpin Faust gives us a first rate study/analysis of what women of the Confederacy endured in terms of changed roles in their society, grieving of lost loved ones, fear of invasion of the Union Army, fear of uprisings of slaves on the larger plantations, and wondering about the outcome of the Civil War. Faust writes in very readable prose--with great clarity. She's a first-rate historian and writer. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the Civil War or women's rights.
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on January 16, 2009
This monograph, written by Harvard's first female president, offers a historical survey of elite Southern women during the Civil War as read through their letters, diaries, citywide decrees, women's societies, and a variety of other popular and legal sources.

The portrait is not flattering. Faust debunks the myth that many white Southern women centralized production in their homes (war "home-factories"), that they successfully made their own products (i.e., especially cloth), that they managed their plantations well, or that they significantly impacted nursing and other professions.

Essentially, Southern women subscribed to an ideology of helplessness and frailty that relied on white masculinity for its defense. They didn't *want*, for the most part, to be independent--they would have much rather preferred being protected and enclosed in the safe "hoop" of patriarchy.

The Civil War required them to step up into position of independence and assertiveness, and at first, women protested and withdrew. They could barely manage their slaves, resorted to impulsive, emotional outbursts, and otherwise failed (for the most part, though of course there are always exceptions) to transgress existing gender boundaries.

However, by the end of the war, elite white women were tired of relying on a white masculinity that seemed to be failing in protecting their identities. Bitter and disillusioned, they began tentatively constructing their own identities, but not as their "northern sisters" had: more out of spite and anger at conditions, their actions were rooted in the "distinctive" Southern "experience of poverty and failure"...
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on December 31, 2013
I was fascinated by this book when it first came out. Now that I have moved to the South, it is even more striking. Slavery was an abstract idea until I started walking the same roads they walked....
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on August 24, 2016
Just finishing this book now. Documentary writing. A pleasure to read
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