Review by Kirkus Book Review
The Other Civil War presents--and represents--American women's efforts throughout the 19th century to gain full rights and participation. As an interpretive survey, it lacks both the conviction and detail of Harvard historian Clinton's earlier study, The Plantation Mistress (1982). And, in contrast to the bradth and verve of Nancy Woloch's Women and the American Experience (below), here all appears moderate, all in right measure. Clinton sides with those who refuse to paint pre-Revolutionary America as a golden age for women, and finds women's lack of rights continuing after the Revolution. Complains the widowed Mary Willing Byrd: ""As a female, as the parent of eight children, as a virtuous citizen. . . I have paid my taxes and have not been Personally or Virtually represented."" In the industrial development that followed, domestic work was devalued, while many women labored for either the slave-owners (""Lords of the Lash"") or the new factory owners (""Lords of the Loom""). The idea of home expanded, and the woman was charged with the total well-being of her entire family. ""Ironically,"" Clinton comments, ""her reproductive role superceded all other cultural concerns at a time when the birth rate was declining."" A second irony lay in women's efforts at moral reform, which both expanded the concept of women's sphere and undermined it: ""The more women plunged into public campaigns, the less effective their plea for women to remain isolated in their domestic havens."" The Civil War clearly had different impacts on Northern and Southern women, slave and free, with many white Southern women facing disinheritance, poverty, and deprivation. Clinton comments quickly on Indian women and the many immigrant groups, then moves on to end-of-the-century pathbreakers and the final granting of the vote. A bibliographic essay summarizes much of the best in recent research--which, all told, Clinton effectively summarizes, but does not move beyond. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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