At the time of the civil war orphans were most often placed in homes as indentured help to foster families in exchange for support. This system of finding families or church homes was stressed by the beginning of the war. The heavy loss of parents, the inability of parents to care and support their children created an orphan crisis, especially in urban areas.
Local and state governments set up orphanages as a way of caring for and protecting children. In many cases the child was not totally without one parent but they couldn’t be supported by their family. The creation of orphanages was seen as the best way to education and nurture the children, yet the institutions were often chided as not creating individuals capable of growing up and being on their own.
The hard work and long hours of the late 1800’s left little time for single mothers or fathers to raise children, particularly the larger families of the south. Children were often left at orphanages or turned out of the house for fend for themselves.
Remarriage or Independence
The mid to late 1800’s was the beginning of many changes, not just for freed slaves but for the American family. Women’s suffrage was in its infancy and pushing towards equal rights and the ability to vote. Just as with the rights of freed slaves, the rights of women would take many years to realize but women were gaining momentum and changing the image of the stereotypical woman of the period.
Northern women were ahead of their southern sisters before the civil war in pushing for suffrage and changes. After the civil war the heavy loss of men, the toll of women surviving the war made the issue of independence more important for Southern women. The daunting task of building lives was a necessity for these women, not just a passing movement which made them bolder in their efforts.
"A startling thought this, that a woman could handle business matters as well or better than a man, a revolutionary thought to Scarlett who had been reared in the tradition that men were omniscient and women none too bright." Margret Mead’s Gone With The Wind, chapter 36
The end of the war had opened options that weren’t previously considered in the Patriarchal southern family. During the four years of the war, southern women had been forced to change from the stereotypical southern belle and powerless matriarch to a force to be reckoned with. Lucy Buck of Front Royal, Virginia wrote in her diary, "Our merry-hearted play-mates will all be gone, and in their stead we shall welcome home stern, war-torn soldiers. We shall never any of us be the same as we have been."32
Not only were some women seeking more independence in their lives after the war, but there was a shortage of available men to marry, particularly in the devastated South. When the next US census in 1870 was completed it showed that women in North Carolina exceed males by twenty-five thousand. In Georgia, the census showed that circumstances were also dire for...