Normal view MARC view ISBD view

Masterful women : slaveholding widows from the American Revolution through the Civil War / Kirsten E. Wood.

By: Wood, Kirsten E.
Material type: TextTextSeries: Gender & American culture: Publisher: Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c2004Description: xiii, 281 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.ISBN: 0807828599 (cloth : alk. paper); 9780807828595 (cloth : alk. paper); 0807855286 (pbk. : alk. paper); 9780807855287 (pbk. : alk. paper).Subject(s): Slaveholders -- Southern States -- History | Widows -- Southern States -- Social conditions | Widows -- Southern States -- Economic conditions | Slavery -- Southern States -- History | Widowhood -- Southern States -- History | Sex role -- Southern States -- History | Plantation life -- Southern States -- History | Southern States -- History -- 1775-1865 | Southern States -- Social conditions | Southern States -- Race relationsAdditional physical formats: Online version:: Masterful women.DDC classification: 975/.03/08621 Other classification: 15.85
The management of Negroes -- The strongest ties that bind poor mortals -- A very public road -- The leading men and women -- Worried in body and vexed in heart -- What will become of us!
Tags from this library: No tags from this library for this title. Log in to add tags.
Item type Current location Call number Status Date due Barcode
Book University of Texas At Tyler
Stacks - 3rd Floor
E443 .W666 2004 (Browse shelf) Available 0000001813112

Includes bibliographical references (p. [247]-266) and index.

The management of Negroes -- The strongest ties that bind poor mortals -- A very public road -- The leading men and women -- Worried in body and vexed in heart -- What will become of us!

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

How did slaveholding widows in the American South exhibit mastery, a decidedly masculine trait, over slaves and households while maintaining their status as ladies? This is the question explored by Wood (history, Florida International Univ.) in this fascinating study. Specific examples from diaries, letters, and personal papers reveal the complexity of individual women's circumstances while showing that slaveholding widows generally did not challenge gender norms or demonstrate a feminist sensibility. Instead, they used a variety of strategies, including their status as ladies, to exert the authority necessary to maintain stewardship of their husbands' property and business interests. Their ability to achieve at least "fictive mastery" depended not only on the usual factors of gender, class, and race but also on kinship and political connections, individual personality, and geographic location. This book, which builds on the work of historians such as Drew Gilpin Faust (Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War), is a necessary addition to women's history collections in all types of libraries.-Linda V. Carlisle, Southern Illinois Univ., Edwardsville (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Wood (Florida International Univ.) analyzes an overlooked type--the slaveholding widow--to demonstrate the instability of gender roles in the antebellum South. Historians frequently describe the South as home to the most conservative interpretation of 19th-century female domesticity, but Wood contends that wives often acted as deputy masters when their husbands were away. Thanks to dower rights as well as direct bequests, these same wives became masters of households and slaves when their planter husbands died. Though they did not have the same physical and political power as male slaveholders, widows disciplined their slaves, conducted business, and even engaged in partisanship. Furthermore, they often wielded authority over yeomen farmers and overseers, thus undermining white manhood as a basis for southern democracy. As sectional conflict intensified, class alliances based on the defense of slavery trumped white male egalitarianism. While surprisingly few widows remarried (for fear of endangering their property rights), they nevertheless expressed anxiety about their anomalous position as women and masters. In this engaging study of southern society, Wood further explodes the thesis that elite southern women remained in the private sphere, only reluctantly assuming authority during the Civil War. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General collections and upper-division undergraduates and above. C. Faulkner SUNY College at Geneseo

There are no comments for this item.

Log in to your account to post a comment.