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First Lady of the Confederacy by Joan E.…

First Lady of the Confederacy

by Joan E. Cashin

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A fascinating account of the life of the very private Varina Davis, the First Lady of the Confederacy. As the first modern biography of this southern belle, the author does an excellent job of illustrating the status of women in the Civil War era. ( )
  paclreference | Sep 17, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674022947, Hardcover)

When Jefferson Davis became president of the Confederacy, his wife, Varina Howell Davis, reluctantly became the First Lady. For this highly intelligent, acutely observant woman, loyalty did not come easily: she spent long years struggling to reconcile her societal duties to her personal beliefs. Raised in Mississippi but educated in Philadelphia, and a long-time resident of Washington, D.C., Mrs. Davis never felt at ease in Richmond. During the war she nursed Union prisoners and secretly corresponded with friends in the North. Though she publicly supported the South, her term as First Lady was plagued by rumors of her disaffection.

After the war, Varina Davis endured financial woes and the loss of several children, but following her husband's death in 1889, she moved to New York and began a career in journalism. Here she advocated reconciliation between the North and South and became friends with Julia Grant, the widow of Ulysses S. Grant. She shocked many by declaring in a newspaper that it was God's will that the North won the war.

A century after Varina Davis's death in 1906, Joan E. Cashin has written a masterly work, the first definitive biography of this truly modern, but deeply conflicted, woman. Pro-slavery but also pro-Union, Varina Davis was inhibited by her role as Confederate First Lady and unable to reveal her true convictions. In this pathbreaking book, Cashin offers a splendid portrait of a fascinating woman who struggled with the constraints of her time and place.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:23 -0400)

In this first academic biography of Jefferson Davis's wife, Varina, Cashin (Ohio State Univ.) presents an engaging look at the Confederacy's first lady, who surprisingly did not believe in the Southern cause. Much of the book, however, focuses on Davis's life after the Civil War, when she struggled to support her penniless husband and later managed her own survival as a widow for over 25 years. Varina Davis drew vast criticism during the postbellum years from her fellow Southerners for her controversial views on the war, particularly when she proclaimed that God's will had provided the North's victory. In spite of the disparagement, Davis spend much of her later life publicly working toward mending the rift between North and South, moving to New York and even befriending the wife of former Union general Ulysses Grant. While the narrative occasionally leans toward overt sympathy, Cashin's study presents an otherwise objective analysis of the tragic Davis and her often-vilified husband.… (more)

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