Friday, February 14, 2020

Booknotes: The Better Angels

New Arrival:
The Better Angels: Five Women Who Changed Civil War America by Robert C. Plumb (Potomac Bks, 2020).

From the description: "Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Clara Barton, Julia Ward Howe, and Sarah Josepha Hale came from backgrounds that ranged from abject enslavement to New York City’s elite. Surmounting social and political obstacles, they emerged before and during the worst crisis in American history, the Civil War."

Robert Plumb's The Better Angels: Five Women Who Changed Civil War America "traces these five remarkable women’s awakenings to analyze how their experiences shaped their responses to the challenges, disappointments, and joys they encountered on their missions. Here is Tubman, fearless conductor on the Underground Railroad, alongside Stowe, the author who awakened the nation to the evils of slavery. Barton led an effort to provide medical supplies for field hospitals, and Union soldiers sang Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” on the march. And, amid national catastrophe, Hale’s campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday moved North and South toward reconciliation."

All five lived remarkably long lives (the youngest died at 85), and the later chapters cover postwar activities and lasting legacies. Another identifies and discusses ten "critical characteristics" the author believes set them apart from their contemporaries and allowed them to further their goals amid challenging social and political environments.

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