Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Robert C. Kenzer

Second Advisor

Dr. Hugh West

Third Advisor

Dr. Ernest C. Bolt, Jr.


This thesis concerns the white women of Fredericksburg, Virginia, during and immediately after the Civil War. Between 1861-1865, Fredericksburg existed in the no-man's land between Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia. The town was bombarded, occupied by enemy forces, and ransacked. Military control of the town changed hands 10 times. Four major battles were fought around Fredericksburg, resulting in over 100,000 casualties. Throughout the conflict, Fredericksburg's white women were in the thick of the action - supporting their troops, nursing the wounded, and managing the increasingly desperate struggle to provide food and shelter for their families. By 1865, many lives were changed by the experience of war and despite the earnest efforts of men and women to rehabilitate the prewar social milieu, the character of a woman's sphere was altered. Using census records, as well as local court and newspaper records, this thesis assesses the war's effects on the gender conventions that framed women's social and economic choices, their roles within the family, and their relations with their spouses. The picture is generally one of social continuity, although the war affected individual women in intensely personal ways. The war did not usher in a new era of opportunities for women; neither did it radically change relations between the sexes. But although married women remained socially and politically subservient to their husbands, antebellum patriarchy was diminished by the war. Evidence of this can be found in married men's wills of estate for the period 1890-1905, which suggest that Civil War-era husbands were more considerate towards their wives, suggesting a minor shift in power relations within marriage.

Included in

History Commons