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Southern Women's Roles And How They Change As A Result Of The Civil War

5793 words - 23 pages

Southern Women's Roles and how they Change with the WarBefore the war, many slaveholding women in the South tried to become the women their society had designed for them, which meant to become a lady. Southern ideology emphasized the ideal of the southern lady as gracious, fragile, and respectful to the men she depended on to take care and protect her. She was expected to be literate. Through reading they extended the implications of their everyday lives and sought models of personal excellencies. Their culture, including personal and social relations, taught that their identity had no meaning apart from privilege and duty. The privileges of their station set them apart from white non-slaveholding and black slave women. Women proved indispensable to these privileged households and the production and reproduction that defined the southern household. They had specific roles set in their society. Their roles closely followed the prevailing norms of division of labor by gender and women were expected to follow them closely. Once the war started, all of this changes. Women were expected to take on new roles as their whole society got flipped.As a girl, a woman's primary responsibility was to prepare herself for her adult life. Young white women were expected to concentrate on learning the various duties they would have as mistresses. This was not something all daughters enjoyed doing, but nonetheless had to do. Even though they may not of enjoyed the work they had to do, many of them anticipated marriage and realized the importance of learning domestic skills. They knew that their primary duty was to attract husbands with suitable wealth, status, and breeding. Many were excited for this. They looked forward to the glamorous life of the Southern belle. Younger girls longed of the day when they could lower their hemlines, tie up their hair, and enter society. Doing this though they had to take the burden of their parents looking up to the to further the family's social ambitions. A girls appearance, her accomplishments, her ability to sing, dance, and play the piano, were all evidence of her family's wealth and gentility.A young lady's ability to exhibit genteel behavior in society and extend family honor also depended on her family's ability to provide her with an adequate education. Academic training was important along with religious and domestic instruction. They were responsible for refining a young lady's temperament, manners, fashion sense, and social graces. By the 1850s, many elite parents subjected their children to years of schooling with the expectation that the attainment of intellectual, musical, and artistic skills would enhance gentility while also fostering her sense of self-fulfillment. Parents also wanted to furnish their daughters with the appropriate skills to allow them to fulfill their moral obligation to the household. It was believed that education would produce an accomplished young lady who would later become an accomplished...

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