Book Review, Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War

Women's Role in the American Civil War

Women took on male responsibilities during the American Civil War, which began in 1861, and focused their energy and attention on the struggle as a whole. In order to assist their male counterparts, some women moved closer to the front lines of battle to manage the households. Additionally, some people entered the military and served as nurses or soldiers. Some even pretended to be males in order to join the military. The 1992 book, the Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War written by Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber is a coverage of a broad spectrum of perspectives regarding the gender issues during the civil war. The book contains contributions from eminent scholars who describe how gender became the scale upon which the political tensions were weighed and focused. The book reveals that the debates over sectionalism and secession were understood regarding gender. Also, the book demonstrates that the nineteenth-century feminism strongly influenced the abolitionist movement.

The Book: "The Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War"

The book is foreworded by James M. McPherson who describes the book as a mark of the full coming of age of the Civil War era social history. McPherson views the book as having the capability to bridge the gap of understanding the civil war since many historians of the war social historians have failed to cover the military issues thoroughly. The book is divided into five sections and includes two overview essays; "The Politics of Yeomen Households," and "The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender." The overview essays are followed by groups of thirteen articles under the categories: "the Northern Homefront," "Women at War," "Men at War," and "The Southern Homefront."

Challenges to Traditional Views of Manhood and Courage

Most of the essays delve into the means through which the 19th-century male views of manhood and courage were challenged during the civil war. The articles of the experiences of the Southern and Northern women focus on how females gained the courage to act as charity workers, run farms, and plantations and to become spies and nurses. A histographical debate that comes out of the writings in the book is whether the independence, opportunities, activism and the leadership of women during the war led to changes in the political roles, attitudes towards men, how men treated them and economic status after the war. The book also contains essays that focus on local and regional history such as the guerilla warfare in Missouri and the hardening processes men went through during the war.

Transformation of America and Gender Roles

The book is successful in being the first to demonstrate how the civil war changed the face of America including the status of African Americans and the politics of the nation. Above all, the book enables readers to understand how the war changed attitudes towards sexuality and transformed the gender roles among Americans. Moreover, the topics discussed in the book are of great importance for future analysis and investigations. Through the inclusion of several essays, the book explains how sexuality, race, gender, and class interrelated to create a new society. The only notable flaw of the book includes its too much focus on the South than North which is a reflection of scholarly trends and cannot be put up as a shortcoming on the part of the editors. On the whole, the book is a good read, informative and also thought-provoking.

Work Cited

Clinton, Catherine, and Nina Silber. 1992. Divided Houses. 1st Ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

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