This volume explores the lives and works of nine Northern women who
wrote during the Civil War period, examining the ways in which,
through their writing, they engaged in the national debates of the
time. Lyde Sizer shows that from the 1850 publication of Uncle
through Reconstruction, these women, as well as a
larger mosaic of lesser-known writers, used their mainstream
writings publicly to make sense of war, womanhood, Union, slavery,
republicanism, heroism, and death.
Among the authors discussed are Lydia Maria Child, Harriet Beecher
Stowe, Sara Willis Parton (Fanny Fern), Frances Ellen Watkins
Harper, Mrs. E. D. E. N. Southworth, Mary Abigail Dodge (Gail
Hamilton), Louisa May Alcott, Rebecca Harding Davis, and Elizabeth
Stuart Phelps. Although direct political or partisan power was
denied to women, these writers actively participated in discussions
of national issues through their sentimental novels, short stories,
essays, poetry, and letters to the editor.
Sizer pays close attention to how these mostly middle-class women
attempted to create a "rhetoric of unity," giving common purpose to
women despite differences in class, race, and politics. This theme
of unity was ultimately deployed to establish a white middle-class
standard of womanhood, meant to exclude as well as include.