Catalogue


The Confederate belle /
Giselle Roberts.
imprint
Columbia : University of Missouri Press, c2003.
description
xi, 245 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0826214649 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Columbia : University of Missouri Press, c2003.
isbn
0826214649 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
4845994
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 217-237) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2004-01-01:
While southern belles have often attracted romance writers, they have generally repelled serious historians. Roberts (La Trobe University, Australia), however, demonstrates that these elite young women left diaries and letters that say a great deal about a society in crisis during the Civil War. Focusing on Anglo families in the states of Mississippi and Louisiana, she argues that belles endured the hardships of war, which forced them to act in ways that contradicted the belle ideal, because they were able to reimagine their behavior as enhancing family honor. Insisting that women contributed by their activities to family honor and were not simply recipients of honor given by males, Roberts argues that the sense of self-worth honor bestowed, more than the material privileges that came from elite status, impelled belles to try to restore the prewar southern hierarchy at war's end. Roberts's carefully nuanced study, sensitive to the tensions in changing social roles, brings a long-needed generational perspective to the study of the war's impact. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Libraries collecting in women's history, the South, and the Civil War. P. F. Field Ohio University
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, January 2004
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Summaries
Unpaid Annotation
During the American Civil War, a new patriotic womanhood superseded the antebellum feminine ideal. It demanded that Confederate women sacrifice everything for their beloved cause of privilege, that they give up their men, their homes, their fine dresses and social occasions to ensure the establishment of a separate nation and the preservation of elite ideas about race, class, and gender. However, as men answered their call to arms, and southern matrons redefined their role as mothers and wives, Southern belles, having been prepared for lives founded on the attainment and expression of gentility, perceived the shortages, the loss of slaves, and the other repercussions of Federal invasion as an assault on the honor and status of their homeland. In The Confederate Belle, Giselle Roberts examines the lives of these young, elite, white women in Mississippi and Louisiana during the Civil War. Unlike their mothers, the belles were limited in their participation in household and community affairs. Aside from fancy needlework or embroidery, young women had little experience of heavy-duty sewing and knitting. Nor were they interested in politics, preferring to devote their time to visiting, music, reading, manners, society, and beaux. After being prepared for a delightful "bellehood, " the young women were suddenly forced to reassess their traditional rite of passage into womanhood and to compromise their understanding of femininity at a pivotal time in their lives. They found themselves caught between antebellum traditions and wartime reality. Rather than simply sacrificing their socialization for patriotic womanhood, the belles drew upon the conceptual framework of Southern honor to strengthentheir understanding of themselves as young Confederate women. They used honor to shape and legitimize their obligations to the wartime household. They used honor to fashion their role as patriotic women. They even used honor
Main Description
While historians have examined the struggles and challenges that confronted the Southern plantation mistress during the American Civil War, until now no one has considered the ways in which the conflict shaped the lives of elite young women, otherwise known as belles. InThe Confederate Belle, Giselle Roberts uses diaries, letters, and memoirs to uncover the unique wartime experiences of young ladies in Mississippi and Louisiana. In the plantation culture of the antebellum South, belles enhanced their family's status through their appearance and accomplishments and, later, by marrying well. During the American Civil War, a new patriotic womanhood superseded the antebellum feminine ideal. It demanded that Confederate women sacrifice everything for their beloved cause, including their men, homes, fine dresses, and social occasions, to ensure the establishment of a new nation and the preservation of elite ideas about race, class, and gender. As menfolk answered the call to arms, southern matrons had to redefine their roles as mistresses and wives. Southern belles faced a different, yet equally daunting, task. After being prepared for a delightful "bellehood," young ladies were forced to reassess their traditional rite of passage into womanhood, to compromise their understanding of femininity at a pivotal time in their lives. They found themselves caught between antebellum traditions of honor and of gentility, a binary patriotic feminine ideal and wartime reality. Rather than simply sacrificing their socialization for patriotic womanhood, belles drew upon southern honor to strengthen their understanding of themselves as young Confederate women. They used honor to shape and legitimize their obligations to the wartime household. They used honor to fashion their role as patriotic women. They even used honor to frame their relationship to the cause. By drawing upon this powerful concept, young ladies ensured the basic preservation of an ideology of privilege. Their unique Confederate bellehoods would ultimately shape the ways in which they viewed themselves and the changed social landscape during the conflict-and after it.
Main Description
While historians have examined the struggles and challenges that confronted the Southern plantation mistress during the American Civil War, until now no one has considered the ways in which the conflict shaped the lives of elite young women, otherwise known as belles. In The Confederate Belle, Giselle Roberts uses diaries, letters, and memoirs to uncover the unique wartime experiences of young ladies in Mississippi and Louisiana. In the plantation culture of the antebellum South, belles enhanced their family’s status through their appearance and accomplishments and, later, by marrying well. During the American Civil War, a new patriotic womanhood superseded the antebellum feminine ideal. It demanded that Confederate women sacrifice everything for their beloved cause, including their men, homes, fine dresses, and social occasions, to ensure the establishment of a new nation and the preservation of elite ideas about race, class, and gender. As menfolk answered the call to arms, southern matrons had to redefine their roles as mistresses and wives. Southern belles faced a different, yet equally daunting, task. After being prepared for a delightful “bellehood,” young ladies were forced to reassess their traditional rite of passage into womanhood, to compromise their understanding of femininity at a pivotal time in their lives. They found themselves caught between antebellum traditions of honor and of gentility, a binary patriotic feminine ideal and wartime reality. Rather than simply sacrificing their socialization for patriotic womanhood, belles drew upon southern honor to strengthen their understanding of themselves as young Confederate women. They used honor to shape and legitimize their obligations to the wartime household. They used honor to fashion their role as patriotic women. They even used honor to frame their relationship to the cause. By drawing upon this powerful concept, young ladies ensured the basic preservation of an ideology of privilege. Their unique Confederate bellehoods would ultimately shape the ways in which they viewed themselves and the changed social landscape during the conflict-and after it.
Main Description
While historians have examined the struggles and challenges that confronted the Southern plantation mistress during the American Civil War, until now no one has considered the ways in which the conflict shaped the lives of elite young women, otherwise known as belles. In The Confederate Belle, Giselle Roberts uses diaries, letters, and memoirs to uncover the unique wartime experiences of young ladies in Mississippi and Louisiana. In the plantation culture of the antebellum South, belles enhanced their family's status through their appearance and accomplishments and, later, by marrying well. During the American Civil War, a new patriotic womanhood superseded the antebellum feminine ideal. It demanded that Confederate women sacrifice everything for their beloved cause, including their men, homes, fine dresses, and social occasions, to ensure the establishment of a new nation and the preservation of elite ideas about race, class, and gender. As menfolk answered the call to arms, southern matrons had to redefine their roles as mistresses and wives. Southern belles faced a different, yet equally daunting, task. After being prepared for a delightful "bellehood," young ladies were forced to reassess their traditional rite of passage into womanhood, to compromise their understanding of femininity at a pivotal time in their lives. They found themselves caught between antebellum traditions of honor and of gentility, a binary patriotic feminine ideal and wartime reality. Rather than simply sacrificing their socialization for patriotic womanhood, belles drew upon southern honor to strengthen their understanding of themselves as young Confederate women. They used honor to shape and legitimize their obligations to the wartime household. They used honor to fashion their role as patriotic women. They even used honor to frame their relationship to the cause. By drawing upon this powerful concept, young ladies ensured the basic preservation of an ideology of privilege. Their unique Confederate bellehoods would ultimately shape the ways in which they viewed themselves and the changed social landscape during the conflict-and after it.
Bowker Data Service Summary
Giselle Roberts examines how the young elite, white, 'Southern Belles' of Mississippi and Louisiana adapted to the new patriotic vision of womanhood which sprang up during the American Civil War, one that demanded that Confederate women sacrifice their men, homes and fine dresses for their cause.

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