Drew Gilpin Faust
Drew Gilpin Faust
Mothers of Invention:  Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War
ISBN: 0807822558
Mothers of Invention
Ms. Gilpin talked about her new book, Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, published by University of North Carolina Press. It examines how Southern white women's roles changed as the men were away at the front and how these new roles permanently altered these women's views of their place in society.
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TRANSCRIPT
Mothers of Invention
Program Air Date: September 1, 1996

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Drew Gilpin Faust, who are the "Mothers of Invention"?
DREW GILPIN FAUST, AUTHOR, "MOTHERS OF INVENTION:" The "Mothers of Invention" are Confederate women, white Confederate women, who lived in slaveholding families during the Civil War, and my book is about their experiences in this time of crisis, and the ways in which they coped with the challenges of war and the transformations that it brought about.
LAMB: Who are the women on the cover?
FAUST: I don't know their names. They are Confederate women from North Carolina, and I think it's nice to not know their names, because they then can be every woman, in a sense, every one of the women I write about.
LAMB: Where'd you get the idea for this?
FAUST: I think the idea for this came out of a lot of work that I'd done in the Civil War, and perhaps out of my own life, in a sense. It might the book that I in some sense was destined to write from the time I became a historian more than 20 years ago. I've done other work on the Civil War, but never focused on women, and I kept collecting notecards and collecting information, and finally this book almost insisted that it be written, and so, I guess in the late '80s, I directed my attention full time to this particular project.
LAMB: There's a quote in the preface that you have in here. You say, "I am sure that the origins of this book lie somewhere in that youthful experience, and in the continued confrontations with my mother, until the very eve of her death, when I was 19, about the requirements of what she usually called femininity. It's a man's world, sweetie, and the sooner you learn that, the better off you'll be.'"
FAUST: I was really shocked a couple of weeks ago when I was rereading "Gone With the Wind," because people keep asking me about "Gone With the Wind," to find that "man's world" quote in "Gone With the Wind" itself. I don't know if that's where my mother got it from, but when I was growing up in Virginia, it was something she was always telling me, because I was a rebellious child who wanted to do what I wanted to do, and was a tomboy, and then got involved with civil rights in the '60s, and was just always a lot of trouble, and so my mother was trying to make me into the lady she thought I ought to be. And I think that confrontation made me very conscious about what it meant to be a lady in the South, and about some of the dilemmas that, 100 years earlier, these women faced.
LAMB: You actually define the term lady in your book. What did it mean in the Confederate South?
FAUST: Well, I think that we often forget the various dimensions that went along with ladyhood, especially in the 19th century. It very much meant someone who was privileged, someone who had enough wealth. In one moment in the book, I have a quote where someone in the Civil War, a woman during the Civil War, has lost her slaves, and then she manages to get another slave, and she says, "Newport has taken the cooking, and we are all ladies again," thereby showing us that ladyhood depended on having a servant, in that instance. I think ladyhood in the Old South also, or in the Civil War South as well, also depended on being white, and indeed, in my childhood, lady was a term that was applied to white women in 1950s and 1960s Virginia, not to black women. So that lady involved a racial definition as well as a definition of privilege or a certain kind of class status, and of course it involved being female. So I'd say those three dimensions make up ladyhood.
LAMB: We have a photo in the book of this woman by the name of Sarah Hughes that you'll see in a second. Is this a typical picture of a woman from the South in the Civil War era?
FAUST: Well, typical in I'm not sure exactly what way. One way I would say it's typical is her facial expression. I sent this book off to a historian friend of mine, and he wrote back. He said, "Their faces are all so grim." Certainly Sarah Hughes would be among the grimmest of those faces. I think partly that was because you had to sit still for so long to have your picture taken in the 1860s. Is she typical? She's probably older than the average woman. She is typical in the sense of the life she led, of these plantation women, I think, in that her plantation was taken over. She lost her slaves, who ran away to freedom. And so in that sense I think she does represent much of what happened to the plantation women that I discuss. She was among the more wealthy, however, of the women that would be within the scope of my consideration.
LAMB: Who's this woman?
FAUST: This is Juliet Opie Hopkins, who grew up in western Virginia, and then married and moved to Alabama, and during the war got very involved in nursing. Came to Richmond, Virginia, and ran a hospital, was the matron of a hospital, used her family fortune to help finance medical care for Confederate soldiers.
LAMB: How did you go about writing this book?
FAUST: Well, first I had to do the research, and what that meant was several years of traveling around to archives in every Confederate state except Arkansas. I never got to Arkansas. But I consulted extensive manuscript repositories and tried to put together as much information as I could about the experiences of women. I also did a lot of work where I live, in Pennsylvania, reading manuscripts on microfilm, and also newspapers and other printed materials, until I felt I had enough material that I was seeing the same thing over and over again, and that's always a sign to me that I'm ready to write, and ready to say what I have to say. So then I sat down and shut myself in my study, and immediately got called for jury duty, the day I was going to start writing, and spent a week and a half on jury duty. That was very frustrating, but eventually I was returned to my project, and began to write, and did that over a period of about a year and a half.
LAMB: Where do you live full time?
FAUST: I live just outside of Philadelphia.
LAMB: What do you do full time?
FAUST: I teach at the University of Pennsylvania. I'm a professor of history there.
LAMB: What kind of history?
FAUST: I teach history of the South. I teach undergraduate courses on war and the American experience. I teach courses on slavery, Civil War -- mostly Southern history.
LAMB: How many states were there in the Union in 1861?
FAUST: Don't ask me numbers.
LAMB: Or how many states were there in the South, in the Confederacy?
FAUST: Eleven Confederate states.
LAMB: How many people down there?
FAUST: Well, the people I concentrate on are the slaveowners. So there are 385,000 slaveowning families in the South at the time of the Civil War. That would include the white families that owned slaves.
LAMB: How many slaves did they have?
FAUST: Four million slaves in the South at the time of the Civil War -- about 12 million white Southerners and four million slaves in the Confederacy.
LAMB: How many of those 385,000 families sent somebody to war, a man to war?
FAUST: Well, I think one of the most important realities in the Confederacy, and one of the most important realities for the women's experience in the Confederacy, was the extremely high rate of mobilization of white Confederate men. Because there were black slaves to do much of the non military labor, the Confederacy was able to draft men at a rate that was very unusual for any society. And so about three out of four white men of military age in the Confederacy served in the Confederate Army.
LAMB: Any age? I mean, I know you ...
FAUST: Well, they change. They start with conscription -- the war starts in April of 1861. The first conscription in American history is one year later, when the Confederacy passes the Conscription Bill in April of 1862, and that original Conscription Bill is expanded in its inclusiveness until, by the end of the war, men from the ages of 17 to 45 are being drafted into the Confederate Army. So it's a very wide range in the way we think today of eligible men for military service.
LAMB: I remember a quote that something like a quarter of all Confederate soldiers died in the war.
FAUST: Well, it's not a quarter, more like 18 percent to 20 percent of Confederate men of military age are killed in the course of the war. And as many as between 40 percent and 50 percent were either wounded or killed in the war. So the impact of this destruction on families -- white families -- was just enormous. Everybody had a family member who had been killed or wounded in the war.
LAMB: What's the first impact that the war had on white women left at home that owned slaves?
FAUST: The first impact. Well, I guess the first ...
LAMB: Or first change or first problem?
FAUST: I think the first problem was many of them reconsidered how they wanted to live. Did they want to stay there without their men? Did they want to move in with family members, with their parents or his parents? Did they want to move in with sisters? So we see all this readjustment of household shapes as a result of the war and as a result of the men departing. Almost immediately, the women would have to confront the responsibility for managing the slaves who were left behind, and much of slave discipline, slave management, almost all of it, in fact, had rested in the hands of white men. Even if the women, white women, would be responsible for day to day direction of slaves in the household, for example, they would know that the white man was there as a recourse, and usually as the source of the violence -- the whipping, the beating, or the threats of that kind of violence that were at the foundation of the maintenance of the mastery over slaves.

And so that would be an immediate problem as well, making sure that whatever the economic functions of the particular household were, were continuing in order to provide food and income for the family. It usually depended very heavily on managing slaves, but it might involve other questions as well: are we going to plant cotton? Are we going to plant corn? What are we going to do about the agricultural situation now that troops are nearby, Union troops are nearby perhaps, and we have to worry about that? Am I going to pick up and leave? Am I going to become a refugee and go elsewhere and try to take my family with me? So those kinds of questions would be an immediate challenge.
LAMB: What rights did a white woman in the South have back in 1861 and '2 and '3?
FAUST: Well, it varied somewhat from state to state. In no state could women vote. In many states women could not hold property in their own name, married women; their property would all be held in their husband's name. I'm trying to think of other sorts of rights that we might think about ...
LAMB: When it came to then having control over the slaves, did any of the white women slaveowners beat the slaves in the same way the men did when they weren't doing things the way they wanted them to?
FAUST: Well, one of the most interesting kinds of evidence that I found in my research was the difficulty that many white women had when they were forced to be themselves the instigators of physical discipline and coercion of slaves. I found that they were much more likely to do it in a fit of rage, to just lash out and hit a slave, or -- there's some examples of women chasing slaves with shovels or brooms in fits of anger and frustration. But white women were very uneasy about the use of systematic, rationalized violence. They felt that this was something that was gendered as male. Women, white women, ladies were not supposed to do this, and so we see this tremendous ambivalence and concern and guilt and unease about the necessity of disciplining slaves in this manner.

Often I found that white women would turn to men who remained in the community, men who were exempt for one reason or another, or over the age of conscription, and ask them to come over and discipline the slaves for them, and the notion was that they would be a kind of force for order, and perhaps could extend their maleness from their own plantation or farm onto those of the farms and plantations of women -- white women -- who had been left alone by their own husbands.
LAMB: What happened to the religion of these white women over the course of the Civil War?
FAUST: Well, what I found was a gradual confrontation with a newly distant God, in a sense. I think at the beginning of the war, white women felt that the God of battles was on the side of the Confederacy, and they found all kinds of citations in the Old Testament about hordes coming down from the north into Judea and God protecting his chosen people, and they were very confident that God would be on their side. But as death tolls mounted, and as the war became more intense, and as the South lost battle after battle, then they sort of shifted to another interpretation of religion, a more Jobian interpretation: We're being chastened. God chastens those whom he favors. So we just have to wait for him to finish chastening us. We have to bear up under these punishments, and then everything will be alright.

But when defeat finally comes, I found many women who wrote with despair about loss of faith: How can I believe when God has done this to us? How can I continue to be a Christian under these circumstances? And most of these women came back to their faith, but I think they had to shift into a notion of a God who was not watching every sparrow that fell or every Confederate that fell. It was a God whose interventions were not as direct, a God who was a more distant kind of power, and so I think that the religious transformations in these women's lives were significant.
LAMB: You say, I think it's early in the book, you say that those who read the end notes, "The reader will be rewarded." Why?
FAUST: I think I say that in the context of those who want to do further reading or those who want to find out some of the richness of possibility for further exploration, and I tried in this book not to burden the text with a lot of scholarly apparatus. I tried, as I say in the beginning, to make it something that my dead mother and my dead grandmothers might have been able to read, and so I've put a lot of that stuff in the end notes, but for the curious, and for those who would like to follow things up, I think there's a lot of information there about places to go, and a lot of information about published materials that are readily available. For example, a lot of Confederate women's diaries have been published in recent years, because there has been so much interest since the Ken Burns series, and since the tremendous interest in women's history. There's been a lot of eagerness to read original materials, and so that an active and interested reader can go out and just find this stuff and a lot of it is cited here.
LAMB: Did you find any material that hadn't been published before?
FAUST: Oh, yes. Most of the material in this book is unpublished materials.
LAMB: Where did you find it?
FAUST: In all these archives all over the South.
LAMB: Name one that was a special place that you found the most.
FAUST: Oh, that I found the most ...
LAMB: Or you found the most interesting item.
FAUST: Well, I'll tell where I found one of my favorite sets of documents. Does that suit your question? At the University of Texas at Austin there is a collection of letters by a woman -- and a diary -- by a woman named Lizzie Neblett, and letters to her husband, Will Neblett. You have your -- I anticipated you -- he has his finger in the page with the picture of her and her husband. She was so frank in what she put into her letters that in a sense she's my favorite character in this book. Not because she's particularly admirable -- there's much about her that one would deplore -- but she does talk about everything. She talks about how she's afraid to have her husband come home because she doesn't want to get pregnant again, and she's not going to allow him in the house unless he comes home with some kind of birth control. She's very frank about this. She and her husband own 11 slaves. So she's not a huge plantation owner. She's a kind of middling plantation owner, a farm owner, I think we'd actually consider her, and she writes in great detail about her difficulties in managing these slaves, to the point that you get to know all 11 of them by name, and you can see the social dynamics in this slave community. And she is indeed one the women who was so troubled by the necessity, as she saw it, to physically coerce the slaves. She gets a neighbor to come in and try to help her and so forth, and the detail in which I was able to reconstruct her life really made her one of the most interesting of the subjects in the book -- and those materials are all in Austin, Texas.
LAMB: What was deplorable about her?
FAUST: She beat her children. She got so frustrated in -- I think that this would be my interpretation of it in any case -- that she got so frustrated about her inability to control her slaves that she turned to beating a small infant, under two years old, and I think took out some of her frustrations about her own inadequacies in this new role she was experiencing; as she called it, "Trying to do a man's business." She found trying to do a man's business overwhelming. And I think that her actions with her own children were deplorable. I think some of the violence she countenanced against her own slaves was deplorable, though she ultimately intervened to keep the man she -- the white man she'd borrowed from down the street, from actually killing her slaves in order to set an example -- one of her slaves -- to set an example to the others. So she does intervene, but she also countenances a good deal of extreme violence against these slaves, and so I think we'd find that very offputting in our own 20th century values and 20th century terms.
LAMB: What's the Museum of the Confederacy?
FAUST: The Museum of the Confederacy is an institution in Richmond, Virginia, that has very rich resources of objects and also of manuscripts, and they've been extraordinarily helpful to me over the years, and allowed me to use a lot of those materials, and they've provided a lot of the visual material for the book.
LAMB: Where are you from in Virginia, by the way?
FAUST: I'm from the Shenandoah Valley, from outside Winchester, Virginia, a tiny town called Boyce, Virginia.
LAMB: It comes up in the book, I think, periodically, doesn't Winchester?
FAUST: Winchester. A lot, actually, of the places that I frequented as a child do come up in the book because that was real Civil War country, and when you asked me at the beginning about the origins of this book, I think I would have to say that growing up in a community where the Civil War was still very much a part of everyone's life certainly played a role.
LAMB: Is it still?
FAUST: The Civil War? Well, I don't spend that much time there, but I think so. Certainly there still are all the things named after Civil War generals: The Lee Jackson Highway that goes right past my father's farm; and Ashby's Gap, named after a Civil War Confederate cavalry officer.
LAMB: We have a highway right out here called Jefferson Davis Highway. And speaking of Jefferson Davis, he wore women's clothes?
FAUST: Well, I think maybe he was unjustly maligned. He wore a cloak, I think, probably. He probably was trying to hide himself from being captured at the end of the war, wearing a cloak, but this was taken up by Northerners and critics and others who wanted to make fun of the South and of Jefferson Davis, and they said that Jefferson Davis was captured trying to hide in a dress, hide from being taken by the Northern troops.
LAMB: What's this?
FAUST: This is a broadside that was printed for sale by a New York news company at the end of the war in order to make fun of Jefferson Davis, and in a sense I think what they're trying to make fun of here is the whole, much vaunted Southern chivalry, the Southern white men who said that they were the embodiment of manhood, and it didn't matter that they were outnumbered by Northerners, they would win anyway because they were so brave, and here they end up in dresses.
LAMB: You say that a lot of women appealed to Jefferson Davis for government jobs during the Confederacy?
FAUST: One of the richest sources of material for this book were letters to Confederate officials that are available in the National Archives here in Washington from women who plead for all kinds of assistance from the Confederate government, and these letters cover a wide spectrum of class origins among Confederate women. Some of them are from complete illiterates. Some of them are dictated to neighbors, and so you know that these women are unable to write. One of my favorite of these letters is from a blind girl who writes in a kind of script that she's been taught in a school for the blind, and somehow that script coming out at you from the page almost makes her alive before you.

So that these letters give a very vivid portrait of the kinds of troubles and challenges that women are facing, and I think they also give a vivid portrait of some of the failures of the Confederate government, because you'll read a letter to Jefferson Davis that just makes you want to weep. I'd sit in these dark rooms in the National Archives, reading some of them on microfilm, others in actual manuscript, but sitting in this microfilm room, it'd be all dark, and I would almost burst into tears, I'd be so moved by these letters. Then I'd turn to the back page of the letter, and what it would say would be "file." It wasn't answered. The plea was not dealt with. Nothing was done for this woman. Simply the letter was filed. And so the breakdown in the trust, you can imagine, by this woman in this Confederate government, in this Confederate official, is just right there before your eyes.
LAMB: When you had your hands on actual letters what can you tell us about the penmanship? What can you tell us about the kind of paper, the ink, or whatever?
FAUST: Well, one of the realities in the Confederacy was that paper was increasingly scarce as the war continued, and so we can see that represented in the changing nature of stationery in the course of the war. The paper sometimes by the end of the war is things like wallpaper or sheaves taken out of books. People were struggling to find anything to write on, and one of the ways they dealt with the paper shortage is particularly obnoxious to contemporary historians, because what they'd do is they'd write across the piece of paper, and then they'd turn it, and write on top of what they'd already written. And that is a real challenge for a historian to try to read, if you can imagine people writing on, you know, one way and then the other. So that was something that was especially difficult in Confederate letters.
LAMB: What about the penmanship?
FAUST: These women had pretty decent handwriting, most of them. It wasn't too difficult, and I've been reading manuscripts for a lot of years now, so you do develop certain skills at it. I find that sometimes my graduate students are really taken aback in their first efforts to read 19th century handwriting, but I guess I've gotten ...
LAMB: What's the education level of the Confederate women?
FAUST: Well, these are women of an elite class. They are women who come from the 25 percent of Confederate society that is rich enough to own slaves, and so many of them are quite well educated, some of them not so well educated -- the letters may be filled with misspellings and so forth, but these would tend to be the most educated or the more educated of Confederate citizens.
LAMB: The name "Drew Gilpin Faust." I've read recently in some history book the name "Gilpin." I think it was a Pennsylvania Gilpin -- is there a famous one? Is that any relation?
FAUST: There's a Henry Gilpin from Pennsylvania who was an attorney general in the mid 19th century.
LAMB: Any relation?
FAUST: Yes, but I can't tell you exactly what. My family did -- the Gilpin part of my family were Quakers in Pennsylvania, then moved to Baltimore and became Episcopalians, which I understand is a quite normal track for Quakers in the 19th century, and then, by the time of my grandparents' generation, had moved to Virginia. So the Gilpins were in Virginia from about the turn of the century, this current century, on, and my father was born in Virginia and ...
LAMB: What did your parents do?
FAUST: My father raises horses in Virginia.
LAMB: He's still alive?
FAUST: He's still alive. And my mother was just a wife, just a housewife, and she died in 1966.
LAMB: You have a painting here, and I'm not sure, is it "Latane" [pronounced LaTONna]?
FAUST: "Latane" [pronounced Latinnay].
LAMB: I knew I'd do that one wrong. "The Burial of Latane." We'll show it close up here in a second. What is this?
FAUST: This is a painting that was done in 1864 by an artist named William D. Washington, and it's a painting that attracted enormous amount of attention in the Confederacy. A number of prominent Richmond wives and sort of society types of the 1860s posed for -- the women who are represented in the painting -- and so that got people's interest up right away, and it seemed to represent a very patriotic rendering in the 1860s, and it was hung in the capital, and people came by and dropped money in buckets that were placed beneath the painting as contributions to the Confederate cause.

I think that this painting is meant to represent the loyalty of women in the war period, and you can see as well on the left the representation of the faithful slaves as they bury a Confederate officer who is a stranger to all of them, who has been killed and left behind the lines, and you can see the woman looking heavenward as she takes on the role of reading God's word in the absence of a male minister. I argue that this painting was a representation of what ought to be rather than what really was by that time period. By 1864, I think many slaves were much more disloyal than this painting represents, very much more eager for freedom than this painting represents; and similarly, women were beginning to desert the cause in significant ways as well.
LAMB: Did you see the original?
FAUST: Yes. It's in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond.
LAMB: So people want to see it -- they can go?
FAUST: Yes.
LAMB: Here's another photo here of Mary Lee ...
FAUST: From Winchester, Virginia.
LAMB: ... who is mentioned all throughout your book. Why?
FAUST: Why is she mentioned? Well, her diary I think is a very rich one. It's from Winchester. It's kept in Winchester today. And it's one that hasn't been used a whole lot. I think I perhaps put more emphasis on it because of my ties to Winchester. But she is a woman who I think represents a number of things, one of which is, she continually is doing these disloyal acts, and kind of subverting the Union effort during various Union occupations of Winchester, and yet she insists that she is not political, she's just a lady, and that the difference, the discrepancy between how she represents herself and what she's actually doing I think is very revealing of the politicization of many of these women's activities during the war.
LAMB: I made a lot of notes on that page about "the intrepid Mary Lee, who passed most of the war on the front lines in the contested town of Winchester, felt that by 1865 she was coming completely unhinged. She noted the admission to Virginia's insane asylum at Staunton of a number of new patients made insane by the war, all women." How many women did go insane because of the war, do you know?
FAUST: I don't have any numbers, and I don't have records that would enable me to accurately retrieve and to count. I found a lot of anecdotal evidence. That whole page is filled with quotations of women who say they've gone crazy or they know people who have gone crazy, and I think the point I want to make in putting that evidence forth is less that women all went crazy because of the war than to alert people to the tremendous impact the war must have had on the emotional and psychological lives of women who were really on the front lines, and I make an analogy between what happened to civilians, who were mostly women, in these Confederate towns and villages and countrysides, and the kind of notions we have and understanding we now have of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
LAMB: From Vietnam?
FAUST: Yeah.
LAMB: But you make that connection several times in your book.
FAUST: I think it applies both to men who were in battle, Confederate men who were in battle, and also to women, to white women, who experienced war, particularly in someplace like Winchester, which changed hands dozens of times during the war. I think that it just -- and the war went on a long time. It went on for four long years, and I think that the psychological impact on both civilians and soldiers cannot be denied or underestimated.
LAMB: As the war went on, you keep referring to the fact that the slaves started being freed, and things changed. What happened at the end of the war? How many slaves -- of the four million, what happened to those four million blacks?
FAUST: At the end of the war? It varied tremendously. I think in the course of the war many of them had picked up and left. One of the themes that white women deal with is the departure of slaves. They'll get up one morning, the slaves will simply be gone. This started happening as early as 1861 or 1862, and after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it happened ever more frequently because they were guaranteed freedom when they got to Union lines. So the motivation to pick up and go was greater than when they feared they might be returned to Confederate owners.

At the end of the war, there was a real renegotiation of labor arrangements in the South, and what evolved was ultimately a system of sharecropping and tenancy, and a whole new labor situation for the exercise of Southern agricultural efforts in the South. For white women of this class, I think the real renegotiation was about the issue of servants, and how, for many of these white women, they were going to be able to reestablish control over a black labor force that would help them out in the household. I think one of the primary commitments for these white women is not to have to do their own household labor, and so they struggle at the end of the war to figure out ways to keep servants, to get servants, to continue to benefit from this kind of labor.
LAMB: You say that the Civil War is the most written about period in American history.
FAUST: Yes.
LAMB: Why?
FAUST: That's a really cosmic question. I would argue that it's because it's in the Civil War that the United States comes to be, in some ways. That it really redefines itself as a centralized nation in a way it wasn't at the time of the Revolution. I think it's also a time when the nation has to decide whether it's going to destroy itself or continue to survive, and it has to reassess what it means by "freedom." It has to really answer a lot of the questions that the Revolution raised and left unanswered: What does slavery mean? What does freedom mean? What does citizenship mean? And so I think we're still struggling with lots of those questions, but I think that struggle has its most definitive moment in the Civil War. I think it also is very written about because it's so dramatic. There's so many extraordinary stories to tell -- the whole notion of brother against brother. So much popular culture in recent years has been occupied with the Civil War, movies like "Glory" or "Gettysburg" or the Ken Burns" series, which riveted the nation several years ago. So I think that there's a tremendous resonance with these questions of courage and freedom and citizenship and what it means to all of us.
LAMB: What book for you is this?
FAUST: Five, I think. I can't even say. I told you I wasn't very good at numbers. Is that five?
LAMB: What were the others? Just what kind of books?
FAUST: They're all about the South. They deal with questions having to do with mostly the Old South. Only recently have I started to write about the Civil War. Questions about slavery, questions about -- did a biography of a South Carolina planter who left extraordinary records about his interactions with his slaves and his political activities, from the pre Civil War period. Did a book about Confederate ideology, religion and belief in the Confederacy. Did a collection of essays called "Southern Stories," which sort of focus on individual Southerners.
LAMB: Who buys them? Who published those others? I know this is University of North Carolina.
FAUST: They've all been published by university presses. The answer to the question of who buys them: for the most part, not a whole lot of people. They've been academic books, and numbers of them are used in classes, actually. Several of them have regular class adoptions. My biography, "James Henry Hammond and the Old South," is used pretty regularly in Old South courses. "The Confederate Nationalism Book" is of interest to Civil War buffs and to others who have Civil War interests, and to classes on the Civil War. This book has attracted a wider audience. I think I tried to write it differently. I think that its focus on women and war is also something of broader appeal, perhaps, than some of the other books that I've done.
LAMB: How did the University of North Carolina Press get wind of this? How'd you sell it? How's that work?
FAUST: Well, I must confess that I didn't really sell it; that Kate Torrey, who is the editor in chief -- she was an editor when this all happened; she's now the director of the press -- was someone that I had gone to high school with, and we didn't see each other probably for 15, 20 years, and then we reconnected because she was in scholarly publishing and I was a historian, and we'd run into each other at meetings. And when she moved to North Carolina, which has an excellent list in Southern history, she started saying to me, "I want your next book, I want your next book." And I didn't know what it was going to be like. I always feel a little uneasy promising someone a book before I've written it, because maybe they won't like it or maybe I won't want to do it ultimately or maybe I'll never get it done. So finally she said this enough times, so I said, "OK, Kate, you can have it." So I hope she would remember the story the same way, but I signed a contract with her -- I don't even remember what year -- probably 1990 or 1991, something like that -- and then set about to produce what I'd promised.
LAMB: What was it like writing it, and how hard is writing for you?
FAUST: How hard is writing for me? I think it's hard. Other people tell me I seem to do it quite easily, but it seems like it's very hard. I usually come up with something pretty polished the first time, because I'll rewrite a sentence 11 times rather than go on and write a whole huge chapter that's a mess, and then have to come back and revise it. So often, by the time I've finished a chapter, another person could read it and make sense of it. I think sometimes people write in a way that -- they'll write a whole draft of something, and then have to go back and do major revisions. I tend to do it bit by bit. I like writing once I get into it, but I find it very painful. I wander around before I do it, and I get all anxious, and -- I guess everybody who writes has stories about the writing process.
LAMB: How many copies of this will the North Carolina Press print?
FAUST: They've printed 10,000 so far. They did an original print run, I think, of 5,000, and they've gone back to reprint twice, because I've been really lucky getting interviews and reviews and so forth, so there's been a good bit of interest in the book.
LAMB: What interests people usually? What do you find is the reason they pick this one up?
FAUST: I think that one of the things that interests people is that the voices are so powerful. I've tried to use, in the book, a lot of quotations, a lot of the language of the women themselves. I've tried to let them represent themselves, and to facilitate that rather than to constantly intrude in that, and it makes it sound like it's nothing but quotations, which isn't true, but I think sometimes they are so eloquent in what they say that that that has caught people's attention. I think also I've tried to make them very complex, to make them both sympathetic and like us, but different from us, and that little bit of a jolt sometimes I think has interested people. There's a chapter that talks about husbands and wives, and talks about what it's like for these women when their men go off to war, and talks about love, and I find it very engaging, very moving, and I think we can identify with a lot of those emotions because perhaps we feel similar emotions or we would feel similar emotions in our own time. And then suddenly I'm talking about slavery, and these women seem so distant from us and so unlike us that those kinds of contrasts, I hope, are something, I think are something that interests people as well.
LAMB: You also talk about the relationship that developed between women. Including -- there's one chapter about a teacher that ...
FAUST: Oh! Isn't that extraordinary?
LAMB: Can you explain -- what is that all about?
FAUST: I don't know how to explain it, and in fact I say that in the text. I have a chapter about single women, women unable to marry, and young girls. I've tried to use age as a variable in this book, and to treat women of all ages, so that in the single women chapter I talk a lot about young girls who anticipate they'll never be able to marry, and often focus their crushes, their adolescent enthusiasms, on one another. And so I found, again in Texas, as a matter of fact, this series of letters between a woman and her teacher where she seems to negotiate -- she's in a boarding school, and she negotiates with this teacher and her husband, for who, whether the husband or she, the student, is going to sleep with this teacher on a particular night. And there's elaborate correspondence about this devotion between the teacher and the student, female teacher, female student, and which nights the husband gets to sleep with the teacher, and which nights the student gets to sleep with the teacher. Now what "sleep" meant, who knows? Whether there was some kind of sexual activity going on, who knows? They certainly didn't write it down, but certainly romance is involved here, love, tremendous amount of emotion and attachment between this teacher and this student.
LAMB: What happened to the women left behind in the Civil War in the Confederacy? What kind of relationships developed because the men weren't around?
FAUST: I think we can see in a number of instances a new intensity of feeling, a sense of their common identity as women. Or in most cases in the Old South and in the earliest years of the Civil War, earliest months of the Civil War, before the kinds of separations we've described took place, white women lived in households where they were mostly isolated from other white women. They'd lived perhaps on a farm or a plantation that was very distant from other farms and plantations, and they lived with a husband and children and slaves, and perhaps some other family members -- you know, a maiden aunt or something, but there weren't concentrations of white women, and because the South had so many fewer urban centers than the North -- it was hard to get access to other families in many cases. They were separated by the rurality of the South.

In the Civil War period, all these women move in together, and I think they develop as a result of that a new consciousness of femaleness, of womanhood, a new sense of solidarity, a new sense of sort of gender identity, and new sense of bonds, and I think out of bonds between women, I think out of this come a lot of organizations in the war period itself for hospital relief and so forth, and then, after the war, things like temperance and the kinds of organizations that one sees in the North in the early 19th century grow out, I think, of this new female solidarity in the South during the war.
LAMB: What was something called, in quotes, "The Twenty Nigger Law," unquote?
FAUST: That was a law that was passed in the October ...
LAMB: Is that actually what it was called?
FAUST: Popularly called that.
LAMB: Slang?
FAUST: Yes. But it's always referred to that in anything you see written, it just gets referred to by that, anything you see written in the Confederate period. The conscription I spoke about towards the beginning of our conversation passed in April of 1862 to draft white men into the Army. Outcry, how are we going to put up with this? Who's going to manage the slaves? What's going to happen when we take white men away from large concentrations of African Americans? We're going to having uprisings, this is going to be so frightening. So in October of 1862, a series of exemptions is added to the law, and one of these exemptions is for individuals who are responsible for managing 20 or more slaves. Now the logic of this was for peace at home, in a sense, for slave control in the countryside. But the import of it was that privileged white Southerners, men, could get out of the draft because they could attach themselves and say I'm going to have to manage slaves so therefore I don't have to go to war.

And this aroused tremendous resentment from non slaveholding white men and from small slaveholding white men who felt that this was turning into a rich man's war and a poor man's fight. This was a war about slavery; why weren't the slaveowners and their sons going off to war? So there are a series of revisions in that law which allow -- well, really essentially to erode the impact of that, and to respond to this class resentment that the passage of the law inaugurated.
LAMB: The figures again -- there were how many slaveholding families?
FAUST: Three hundred and eighty five thousand.
LAMB: Do you know what the population was of the ...
FAUST: That's about a quarter of the families of the South in 1860.
LAMB: And there were four million slaves?
FAUST: Slaves, yes.
LAMB: You have a picture of a spy, and as they show the picture of the spy, there were 400 women in the South that actually dressed up ...
FAUST: North and South.
LAMB: North and South.
FAUST: It's estimated that there were as many 400 women who dressed up as soldiers and went off and served in the Confederate and Union armies.
LAMB: Who is this?
FAUST: This is Belle Boyd, and she didn't dress up as a man, because she used her femininity, her female garb, as a way to hide her very male activities of spying and working on behalf of the Confederate cause.
LAMB: What'd she do?
FAUST: She was quite something. She did a number of things. Gave information to Stonewall Jackson about Union troop movements. When she was put in prison in Washington, she beguiled the manager of the prison, who kept buying her clothes and wanted to marry her. She then was released and passed more information on to Confederate officers and was ultimately put on a boat and was to be shipped north to prison by Union troops, and then she seduced and married the Union captain of the boat. She was forever using her ability to manage men in order to advance the Confederate cause.
LAMB: Were there many women spies during the Civil War?
FAUST: We have records of a number of them, both North and South, but probably we don't know how many there were because the very nature of being a spy is to be secretive, and so it's probably unknown how many of them actually did.
LAMB: What was General Order 28?
FAUST: Oh, General Butler's women order. This was an order that was passed by General Butler, Benjamin Butler, a Union general who was given responsibility for the management of New Orleans after it fell to Union troops in the Spring and Summer of 1862, and what he found himself confronted with was the most vile insubordination -- vile as he saw it -- insubordination from white women in New Orleans, who felt themselves shielded by their womanhood from any kind of punishment by Union officers, and so they would spit at Union officers and they would dump chamber pots on Union officers, and in other ways show no respect for the occupying troops in New Orleans, and General Butler issued a proclamation that said, "If these women behave like women of the streets, they will be treated like women of the streets."

And an outcry came forth from across the globe. There were editorials in the London newspapers about this, about Beast Butler, and his mistreatment of the ladies of New Orleans, saying that he's going to treat them as if they're prostitutes. What I argue about this women's order is that what General Butler is trying to do is to kind of call these women by their own bluff; that we can see white women in the Confederacy expecting to be given the benefit of the doubt because they're women, expecting not to be subjected to the same rules of combat, in a sense, as men, and therefore, like Belle Boyd, taking advantage of that. And General Butler says, "You act in a political way, you take the responsibility for your behavior, and I will treat you as if you're behaving in the way," you know, "by your acts shall ye know them," not by some claim to the immunities of ladyhood.
LAMB: Where did you go to school?
FAUST: College, high school, what? College? Bryn Mawr College.
LAMB: And why did you pick Bryn Mawr?
FAUST: I was at ...
LAMB: Right outside of Philadelphia.
FAUST: Right outside of Philadelphia. I was in a girl's boarding school, and I wanted to go somewhere that was very intellectually challenging, but I think I was maybe a little timid about moving into a large world, and I thought Bryn Mawr would be challenging, and indeed was, and I think also, though, there's another little piece of this, probably. I come from a family in which all the men went to Princeton, and I'm old enough that women were not permitted at Princeton in my day, and when I went to look at Bryn Mawr, it sort of looked like Princeton. So I think on some subliminal level maybe I was identifying with that.
LAMB: Who are the other men in the family? How many brothers, sisters, and all?
FAUST: I have three brothers. I have my father and my uncle went to Princeton. We can go back -- my grandfather, my great uncle; it goes back and back and back.
LAMB: What's that connection?
FAUST: To Princeton?
LAMB: Yeah. Anything in particular?
FAUST: Well, lots of southerners have always gone to Princeton. Lots of Virginians have gone to Princeton. Whether that's part of it, I'm not sure. I don't know why the first one went.
LAMB: Where did you get your -- what did you study at Princeton? I mean, at Bryn Mawr. You see, I made a Freudian slip.
FAUST: See, you did it for me. I studied history, and I was a history major there, and then I went to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania and got a Ph.D. there in American civilization, and they hired me when I finished my Ph.D. and I've been there ever since.
LAMB: You also dedicate the book to three women. There are some Gilpins and some Fausts and all that in there, I think.
FAUST: Gilpins and Mellicks.
LAMB: Yeah, who are they?
FAUST: The first, Isabella Tyson Gilpin, was my grandmother, my father's mother; the second, Catharine Ginna Mellick, was my mother's mother; and the third, Catharine Mellick Gilpin, was my mother.
LAMB: Why did you dedicate it to them?
FAUST: I think this book is very much a part of them, and they're very much a part of what made me want to write the book. The conversations about: "What is it to be a lady? What is it to be a woman?" As I write in the introduction, they were also women who were affected by war. My two grandmothers sent husbands off to World War I, overseas, and my mother and my father were separated very soon after their marriage in the early 1940s when my father went overseas for 18 months. So that they weren't women for whom homefront and battlefront converged in the way it did for Confederate women, but they were still very much women who were made a part of war and whose marriages and family lives were affected by war. My grandmother, the first woman on that list, lost a brother in the first World War when he volunteered for a fly mission over the English Channel and was killed.
LAMB: You have a number of pictures we haven't shown. Some of them are unidentified couples back in that time. What happened to marriage after the war was over? Those that came back home, what did they find in these women?
FAUST: Well, I think one of the great frustrations is how difficult it is to answer that question, because when you write about the Civil War period, you have people who are separated and write to each other all the time, and you have women who are very aware that they're in a historic moment, so they keep diaries. The war ends, the husbands come home, the letters disappear, the diaries get abandoned, and we have so much less information about what's going on because it's happening face to face instead of in a kind of record that a historian can retrieve and have in a later century.
LAMB: Who's this couple?
FAUST: That's John Hunt Morgan and his bride, Martha Reddy Morgan. This is a carte de visite which they had taken at the time of their marriage, and they were only married for about two years when he was killed. So this is a kind of casualty of war in the offing in that very picture.
LAMB: Did they remarry? And what kind of men did they find?
FAUST: Well, there's a lot of discussion in the Confederacy about widows, who are seen as rather dangerous in the eagerness that many of them display to remarry. There was a kind of active social network of these widows searching for appropriate men to attach themselves to, and I argue that that's an indication of these women finding that they have a self interest and that they are desiring beings. It's a king of rejection of the ideology of self sacrifice that many of them are told to embrace, because they say, "I'm not, you know, going to sit around and mourn and pine forever. I have a right to happiness, and I want to find someone else."
LAMB: What do you hope somebody takes away from this book and does with it?
FAUST: Well, I think one of the things I'd like this book to impart is a sense of how complex people's lives are. I think that when women's history kind of took off as a subject -- I mean, it's been written about for generations, but in the 1970s there was a real explosion of interest in women's history, and it focused mostly on finding heroines, people we could look up to, people we could identify with. These women are not heroines. They're more complex than that. And I'd like one message to be how difficult people's lives are, how we're born into situations where our choices are limited. We may be born as parts of slaveholding families or we may be born in a situation where a war starts, and we just have to adjust what's possible to that. So I'd like people to both sympathize, but also distance themselves from these women -- as I said before, to see how complicated historical choices can be, and to understand that in our own time there are many complicated choices, too. So that would be one thing I'd like people to think about, that life isn't necessarily just about heroism or easy choices and easy moral issues.
LAMB: You say that, in your opening, that you listened to the voices of more than 500 Confederate women. Are there any voice recordings anywhere from that era?
FAUST: No.
LAMB: You say that the photography was different in the North and the South. What was the difference?
FAUST: Well, in every part of life that had to do with technology, the North was more advanced. The Confederacy couldn't even get the Confederate seal engraved. They had to have it done in England and shipped through the blockade. So similarly with photography, there were fewer photographers. There was not the same availability of access to photographers for Southern soldiers and civilians. So there's simply not as many photographs. There are good numbers of them, but not as many as in the North.
LAMB: Did you have trouble choosing what photographs you wanted in the book? I mean, did you have more than you needed?
FAUST: I did have more than I needed, and there are more coming available all the time. For example, the State Department of Archives and History in North Carolina has just developed a project where they're asking North Carolinians to make available to the Department of Archives privately held photographs, and this has yielded a great harvest of previously unknown photographs, and that's been a great addition to our wealth of photographic information about the war.
LAMB: Now where'd you find this? This is the photograph you have on the cover, and -- I think it is, yeah. And the one you also have inside. Where'd you find it?
FAUST: That was lent to the book or given to the book by the Museum of the Confederacy. They own the original of that.
LAMB: What do you see in that picture?
FAUST: I see six white women. You want me to read this photograph for you? I see a group of women together, which I think is significant. It would fit in with what we were saying about women banding together outside of the hierarchical structures of families and husbands and so forth. We see women in clothes, some of which may be homespun. Some of these women may be wearing clothing that was produced during the war itself. We see women all of one age, and in that sense -- or approximately one age. What do you think these women are? Twenty five to 35, probably, in age. And the book is broader in its reach than that. We have little children in the book, and we have older women in the book, and and a greater range, but this would be perhaps an average age. If we added everybody up and divided for the mean, we might get women of this age.
LAMB: At the end of the war, what did the women think of the Confederacy?
FAUST: Well, I think many of then had become really disillusioned. They began to focus on their personal needs, on their families, on loss of life, on their desire to have their husbands come home, rather than on the kinds of abstract notions of patriotism that had caught many of them up in enthusiasm for the war at its very beginning. So I see a lot of abandonment of patriotism and a lot of focus on "Just come home; we're probably going to lose this war, but whether we win or lose, it's not worth this tremendous cost in lives and destruction."
LAMB: You mention three people that I wanted to ask you about. C. Vann Woodward. Who is he?
FAUST: C. Vann Woodward is probably the dean of Southern historians alive today. He taught at Yale for years. He's now retired from Yale. He's in, I would guess, his mid 80s, and he's written very influentially about a variety of issues in the 19th and 20th century South, and in particular, in relationship to my book, he has put forth a notion of a burden of Southern history that weighs upon Southerners and is one of the most distinctive features in the establishment of Southern identity.
LAMB: And what's been his biggest impact?
FAUST: In general? Maybe that little phrase, "the burden of Southern history," which I take issue with, in a sense, at the end of the book, because I think he focuses on the burden of history on white Southern men, and I argue that, if we look at the burden of history on African Americans or on white Southern women, we have to understand it a little differently.
LAMB: William Faulkner, you mention.
FAUST: Oh! William Faulkner, eminent novelist of the South, lived in the sort of early to mid 20th century, and the book of his that I think is most closely related to my interest in the Civil War is a novel called "Absalom! Absalom!" which is just a stunning fictional portrayal of the Civil War, and again, I think he captures much of the consciousness of the South about the Civil War, and much of the meaning of the Civil War for the South and the nation.
LAMB: Susan B. Anthony. It's one of the last people you name.
FAUST: It's odd that she should be a last person I name, because she's very much a Northern woman. She was an advocate of women's rights and women's suffrage in the North, and I use her at the end of the book to contrast her notion of women's rights with some of the emerging sense of self that I see in these white Southern women, and what I argue is that Susan B. Anthony approached women's rights with a tremendous sense of opportunity, possibility, optimism, and I quote from her, one of her statements, "Failure is impossible." And I say that white Southern women come to a notion of themselves out of desperation, out of necessity, out of a need to protect themselves, and out of a real sense of the possibility of failure, a possibility that Susan B. Anthony didn't see as part of the expansion of women's roles and powers.
LAMB: Now where would you send someone who's been listening to this and thinking about this, some place that you've been in your search for history that you were surprised when you got there, you found it interesting, you found it someplace you wanted to tell a friend, "Go see this."
FAUST: Do you mean a historic site or ...
LAMB: Anything -- historic site or a museum or some archives or a place where you just remember, in all your research, that you said, "You ought to go see that."
FAUST: Well, I don't know if they want to look at materials, one of the easiest things to do would be to go to the National Archives and look at some of these letters to the Confederate president. And you can get them on microfilm. You just go into the microfilm reading room and reel through these letters and get a sense of what civilians are saying about their lives. And they're not anybody famous that you're going to see. They're just ordinary people. So that would be one place if you want to do that kind of work.
LAMB: Can you see the actual manuscript?
FAUST: You can if you ask, I think. They try not to have everybody handling the manuscript. So the things they've microfilmed, they like to have you use on microfilm. Another place I would say to go is the Museum of the Confederacy, which is putting together an exhibition on women in the Civil War, and it will be broader in its scope than my book. This is slaveholding women. The Museum of the Confederacy is putting together an exhibition on black, white, rich, poor -- what are the women of the Confederacy and their experience? And I think that would be a very exciting thing to visit and to see. So those would be two kinds of experiences.
LAMB: Are you married?
FAUST: Yes.
LAMB: And do you have children?
FAUST: Yes.
LAMB: How old are they?
FAUST: I have a 14 year old daughter and a husband who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania.
LAMB: And what does your 14 year old daughter think of all this?
FAUST: I don't know.
LAMB: What's her name?
FAUST: Her name is Jessica. What does she think of all this? I guess she thinks it's interesting. She came to a book presentation I did at a bookstore, and she said, "That was really interesting," when I was done. And she's quite a feminist. She's become a very active reader of feminist theory, and she's much more political, I think, on many of these matters than I am. So whether that comes out of living with someone who was working on this book all this time, I don't know, but that's certainly her commitment.
LAMB: Here's the cover of the book, "Mothers of Invention." Drew Gilpin Faust, our guest, thank you very much.
FAUST: Thank you.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1996. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.