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Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War

Yankee Women: Gender Battles in the Civil War
Author: Elizabeth D. Leonard
ISBN 13: 9780393313727
ISBN 10: 393313727
Edition: Reprint
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: 1995-09-17
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
List Price: $27.95

In Yankee women: Gender Battles in the Civil War, Elizabeth Leonard portrays the multiple ways in which women dedicated themselves to the Union. By delving deeply into the lives of three women - Sophronia Bucklin, Annie Wittenmyer, and Mary Walker - Leonard brings to life the daily manifestations of women's wartime service. Bucklin traveled to the frontline hospitals to nurse the wounded and ill, bearing the hardships along with the men. Wittenmyer extended her antebellum charitable activities to organizing committees to supply goods for the troops in Iowa, setting up orphanages for the children of Union soldiers, and creating and managing special diet kitchens for the sick soldiers. Mary Walker forms her own unique category. A feminist and dress reformer, she became the only woman to sign a contract as a doctor for the Union forces. In hospitals and at the battlefront, she tended the wounded in her capacity as a physician and even endured imprisonment as a spy. In their service to the Union, these women faced not only the normal privations of war but also other challenges that thwarted many of their efforts. Bucklin was more daring than some nurses in confronting those in charge if she felt she was being prevented from doing what was needed for the soldiers under her care. In her memoir, she recounted the frictions between the men and women supposedly toiling for a unified purpose. Wittenmyer, like other women in soldiers' aid, also had to stand up to male challengers. When the governor of Iowa appointed a male-dominated, state sanitary commission in direct conflict with her own Keokuk Ladies' Aid Society, Wittenmyer and the women who worked with her fought successfully to keep their organization afloat and get the recognition they deserved. Walker struggled throughout most of the war to be acknowledged as a physician and to receive a surgeon's appointment. Her steadfast will prevailed in getting her a contract but not a commission, and even her contract could

Publishers Weekly

Victorian life, as we're reminded by Leonard, a history professor at Colby College in Maine, delineated gender spheres: the home for women and the rest of the world for men. The Civil War challenged this construction as women created new places for themselves. Yankee Sophronia Bucklin was a frontline nurse who was self-confident enough to question the authority of army surgeons, and Annie Wittenmeyer organized supplies for hospitals. Mary Walker was the only woman doctor in the Union Army--and served wearing bloomers. Postwar accounts reintegrated the contributions of these women, writes Leonard, into conventional patterns ``to foster a return of middle-class gender arrangements to their status quo antebellum.'' But nothing could take away Mary Walker's hard-won Congressional Medal of Honor. A thoughtful and original study. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)