Women & The Reconstruction Era

We hear (and write) about women during the Civil War. But what about the Reconstruction Era?

Since history is about real people and real events, what better way to talk about Women during the Reconstruction Era than looking at the lives of four ladies from that time period?

How did they respond to the politics? (Remember, just because they didn’t vote yet, doesn’t mean women didn’t care about national happenings.) How did they respond to social change? How did the cope with the ending of the war and that bloody conflicts results which devastated both North and South?

I started looking at the accounts of women who volunteered as teachers for the Freedmen, officer’s wives who witnessed the “occupation of the South,” politicians’ wives who knew the governmental wranglings of the day, and women who had lived their entire lives in the Southern states. What did they experience? What did they have to say about Reconstruction? How did they respond? What “hidden” chapters of history did they help to write?

For women who had volunteered in a variety of roles during the Civil War, their activism often ran in social reform channels – temperance movement, Freedman’s Bureau, and later votes for women advocacy. Many continued or entered the traditional roles for women (wife, mother), but found ways to continue their “activism” in their local communities and often connected to their churches.

If pop-culture thinks about women in the Reconstruction Era, fictional Scarlett O’Hara probably still comes to mind. While some aspects of that tale might ring true with historical facts, she is not an accurate representation of all women – not even all white southern women – in the Reconstruction Era.

Maybe it’s time to set aside fiction and take a closer look at real women living in different regions of the country, with different beliefs, different ideals, and different ways of responding. Want to join the journey and discussion? We’re planning release to release four blog posts on the subject, with one this weekend and the others on the following Fridays of August!

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Leave a comment and name a woman from the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877). Why does her story matter? What can we learn from it?

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