University Museum & Moonstone Presents
Women and the Civil War
Saturday October 26, 2013 – 2:00pm
A discussion between Judith Giesberg and Stephanie McCurry
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, 3260 South St, Philadelphia, PA 19104, (215) 898-4000
War is Hell, not only on the battlefield but at home as well. Women were left alone with their children to fend for themselves. Who would run the farm, who would raise the food or earn the money to buy it? Women and children starved both North and South. They rebelled, women attacked army storehouses to steal the food to feed their children and urged their husbands to desert the armies to come home and take care of their families. The horrors of war exist no matter which side you are on. The silver lining of chaos is change. With the men off killing each other the Civil War opened areas of opportunity for women. They not only participated in relief organizations but took jobs in factories, became doctors and nurses, fought in the war and served as spies. The temperance organizations that had supported the anti-slavery movement turned its attention to women’s suffrage and the women’s club movement created a world outside the home that women could be involved in.
Judith Giesberg, Associate Professor of History at Villanova University, author of Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Front – Introducing readers to women whose Civil War experiences have long been ignored, Judith Giesberg examines the lives of working-class women in the North, for whom the home front was a battlefield of its own. At the heart of the book are stories of women who fought the draft in New York and Pennsylvania, protested segregated streetcars in San Francisco and Philadelphia, and demanded a living wage in the needle trades and safer conditions at the Federal arsenals where they labored. Giesberg challenges readers to think about women and children who were caught up in the military conflict but nonetheless refused to become its collateral damage. She offers a dramatic reinterpretation of how America’s Civil War reshaped the lived experience of race and gender and brought swift and lasting changes to working-class family life.
Stephanie McCurry, Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, author of Confederate Reckoning – The story of the Confederate States of America, the proslavery, antidemocratic nation created by white Southern slaveholders to protect their property, has been told many times in heroic and martial narratives. Although Southern statesmen and generals had built the most powerful slave regime in the Western world, they had excluded the majority of their own people—white women and slaves—and thereby sowed the seeds of their demise. The political project of the Confederacy was tried by its own people and failed. The government was forced to become accountable to women and slaves, provoking an astounding transformation of the slaveholders’ state. Confederate Reckoning is the startling story of this epic political battle in which women and slaves helped to decide the fate of the Confederacy and the outcome of the Civil War.