The Ideology of White Southern Daughterhood, 1865–1920
Weber Stefonowich, Kelly Byrd
Boles, John B
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation examines the ideology of daughterhood and how it affected white women in the post–Civil War South. It begins with the ideology of daughterhood, which is a set of cultural expectations about a woman’s position in the family hierarchy and what that position does or should entail for her identity, behavior, and role in society. In the post–Reconstruction era, former Confederates used the ideology of daughterhood to commemorate the Lost Cause. White southerners used the daughters of Confederate veterans in memorial events as a bridge between generations, as well as a way for the public to connect to their deceased heroes. Confederate daughters performed these roles better than Confederate sons because of the gendered expectations of men and women. The construction of manhood in the late nineteenth century, which emphasized economic success and physical demonstrations of manliness caused many white southern men not to celebrate the Lost Cause. Moreover, southern parents expected their sons to become independent while simultaneously insisting that their daughters remain dependent on their families even after marriage. As the generation of Confederate daughters became more involved in Confederate memorialization, they began to use daughterhood to assert their place on the public stage. White southern women were instrumental in the organization of three of the most popular patriotic-hereditary societies of the late nineteenth century: the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. All three associations placed significant emphasis on their members being proven descendants of soldiers or statesmen of their historical event. The hereditary connection gave these groups the legitimacy that they needed to perform memorial work in public without fear of being criticized for behaving in an unwomanly manner. These three women’s clubs performed a range of commemorative activities, including traditional memorial work, historical education for children, and expressly political engagements. Initially used as a means of compelling Confederate daughters into memorialization, by the end of the nineteenth century the ideology of daughterhood provided white southern women with a socially acceptable way to publicly participate in political discourse.