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Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slave-Holding South in the American Civil War (The Fred W. Morrison Series in Southern Studies)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  942 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

Winner of the Francis Parkman Prize

Winner of the Avery Craven Prize

In the ante-bellum South, women from elite slaveholding families were raised to consider themselves not so much as "women" but as "ladies," models of dependent femininity. But that ideal was to prove impossible to maintain during the social upheaval of the Civil War,
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 30th 1997 by Random House USA Inc (first published 1996)
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Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
In her study, Faust focuses narrowly on women from the slave-holding stratum of Southern society, the elite, during the American Civil War. Her point of view is the way in which these women--pre-and post-war--viewed themselves, and the consequences of changes in those views brought on by the war.[return][return]Pre-war, elite Southern women defined themselves, not as women, but as ladies , which involved definite and rigid preconceptions of race, class, and gender. White was superior to black, t ...more
Dec 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book, 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
Kressel Housman
I first heard of this book when the author, the first female president of Harvard University, was interviewed on Freakonomics Radio. Originally from the South, she was raised with the expectation to be “a lady.” She completely defied it by doing the unladylike thing of raising farm animals alongside her brothers. She sounded like another Nelle Harper Lee, except she chose academia instead of novel-writing. Her book examines the lives of an earlier set of Southern ladies: the generation of white ...more
Apr 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very clearly written - just like our history papers were in college. Each chapter tackles a part of the subject so you can put the book down and pick it up over a long period of time and not be lost.

Faust debunks the romantic belief lots of us have that the majority of Southern women supported the war effort gladly. I liked that there was no judgment placed by the author on ladies' behavior during the war but the portrait did end up being not very flattering.
Jul 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans, Women
There’s poetry that makes you love poetry, and novels that make you love novels and history books that make you love reading history. And this is one of them – a fascinating, absorbing book about the changes the Civil War wrought on the culture of the American south. Death and hoopskirts and drudgery, fear and self-worth and deprivation and nursing and class wars, expectations, wimping out and grief and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

Anyone with the teensiest inclination to read this sh
Maura Heaphy
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent and very well-written research and scholarship. Says a few things that need to be said about the institution of slavery, and the true nature of the Confederacy.

First of all, set aside any "romantic" Scarlett O'Hara-style notions of Confederate ladies as spunky gals who would do anything to support their Boys in Grey, protect their children, and maintain their "way of life." Based on the fantastic array of letters, journals and other writing from every corner of the Confederacy, most of
Feb 26, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
According to Drew Gilpin Faust, writing about and researching the “history of elites” is a topic that lately has not been considered “fashionable,” but one she takes interest in with her book Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War. In Drew’s estimation, the Civil War changed the roles of white women, particularly elite white women, in society. The war altered what kind of work they did, how their marriages functioned, and what they expected of themselves. ...more
Written more as academic than popular non-fiction this book was a tad dry to read but I was interested enough in the subject matter to persevere to the end. Drew Gilpin Faust examined how the roles of affluent Confederate women changed drastically during the Civil War after the men left to serve in the Confederate Army. Restrictions of race, class and gender kept them prim and proper before the war but now they had to manage the plantation and discipline the slaves. And they failed.

Chapter 3 “En
Oct 13, 2012 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition

My friend Lucy is trying her hand at holding traditional salons in her home. At last night's first attempt, this book came up in the grab pile. I lost it to another attendee*, but made sure I added the info to my Goodreads list before she made off with it. I'll definitely be keeping my eye out for it as I make my way through a few other recent civil war related titles I picked up at our library book sale next month.

*don't feel too bad for me. I ended up with a great book about Mars, instead.
Dec 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at the lives of white slave owning women in the south during the Civil War. Women had been raised to be dependent and helpless. All of a sudden the men all vanished and they had to cope on their own. Along with having to do things their husbands would have taken care of, they had to start doing a lot of the work around the house they were unaccustomed to doing as well as untrained to do. The letters and journals of women across the south weave a fascinating story.
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Catherine Drew Gilpin Faust is an American historian, college administrator, and the president of Harvard University
More about Drew Gilpin Faust...
“Where there are so many negroes upon places as upon ours," wrote an Alabama woman to the governor, "it is quite necessary that there should be men who can and will controle them, especially at this time." Faced with the prospect of being left with sixty slaves, a Mississippi planter's wife expressed similar sentiments. "Do you think," she demanded of GovernorJohn Pettus, "that this woman's hand can keep them in check?" Women compelled to assume responsibility over slaves tended to regard their new role more as a duty than an opportunity.” 0 likes
“As the Reverend Robert Barnwell emphasized in an address to the ladies of Charleston, "WITHOUT YOU, THIS WAR COULD NOT HAVE BEEN CARRIED ON, FOR THE GOVERNMENT WAS NOT PREPARED TO MEET ALL THAT WAS THROWN UPON IT.” 0 likes
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