Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Robert C. Kenzer


This thesis investigates the lives of Civil War widows who applied for pensions under the 1888 law in Virginia, concentrating on Albemarle, Buckingham, Cumberland, Fluvanna, Goochland, Louisa, and Nelson Counties. The focus of the study centers on both their pre- and post-war lives to determine who these women were before and after the loss of their husbands. Using the Confederate Pension Applications, a group of 156 widows emerged from these counties. The Manuscript Census of 1860 presented a picture of pre-war life while the censuses of 1870, 1880, and 1900, along with the pension applications, helped reveal their lives after the war. The widows were generally in their twenties with stable marriages and two to three young children before the war. The families also usually owned personal property. After the death of their husbands, the widows often turned to other family members for help or began their own careers, ordinarily in agriculture. In general, they also owned less property than before the conflict. By the time Virginia enacted the pension law of 1888, the widows were well into middle age and many resided with adult children who often took care of their widowed mothers.

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