Monday, January 28, 2019

Booknotes: Single, White, Slaveholding Women in the Nineteenth-Century American South

New Arrival:
Single, White, Slaveholding Women in the Nineteenth-Century American South
  by Marie S. Molloy (USC Press, 2018).

Marie Molloy's Single, White, Slaveholding Women in the Nineteenth-Century American South "investigates the lives of unmarried white women―from the pre- to the post-Civil War South―within a society that placed high value on women's marriage and motherhood." The book examines "singleness" broadly, to include "non-marriage, widowhood, separation, and divorce."

"These single women were not subject to the laws and customs of coverture, in which females were covered or subject to the governance of fathers, brothers, and husbands, and therefore lived with greater autonomy than married women." The Civil War transformed society in countless ways, and Molloy's study suggests that the conflict was a major factor in "accelerating personal, social, economic, and legal changes for these women." Inexorably, the "autonomy and independence" inherent in being single women "expanded and reshaped traditional ideals of southern womanhood."

More: "Molloy delves into these themes and their effects through the lens of the various facets of the female life: femininity, family, work, friendship, law, and property. By examining letters and diaries of more than three hundred white, native-born, southern women, Molloy creates a broad and eloquent study on the relatively overlooked population of single women in both the urban and plantation slaveholding South. She concludes that these women were, in various ways, pioneers and participants of a slow, but definite process of change in the antebellum era."

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