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Celebrating Recent Work by Stephanie McCurry

New Books in the Arts and Sciences

dateFebruary 20, 2020 timeThursday, 6:15pm EST location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy
  • Office of the Divisional Deans in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Free and open to the public
  • No registration necessary
  • First come, first seated
Cover of Women's War: Fighting and Surviving the American Civil War by Stephanie McCurry

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New Books in the Arts & Sciences:
Celebrating Recent Work by Stephanie McCurry

Women’s War: Fighting and Surviving the American Civil War
By: Stephanie McCurry

We think of war as a man’s world, but women have always played active roles in times of violence and been left to pick up the pieces in societies decimated by war. In this groundbreaking reconsideration of the Civil War, the award-winning author of Confederate Reckoning invites us to see America’s bloodiest conflict not just as pitting brother against brother but as a woman’s war.

When the war broke out, Union soldiers assumed Confederate women would be innocent noncombatants. Experience soon challenged this simplistic belief. Through a trio of dramatic stories, Stephanie McCurry reveals the vital and sometimes confounding roles women played on and off the battlefield. We meet Clara Judd, a Confederate spy whose imprisonment for treason sparked heated controversy, defying the principle of civilian immunity and leading to lasting changes in the laws of war. Hundreds of thousands of enslaved women escaped across Union lines, upending emancipation policies that extended only to enslaved men. The Union’s response was to classify fugitive black women as “soldiers’ wives,” regardless of whether they were married—offering them some protection but placing new obstacles on their path to freedom. In the war’s aftermath, the Confederate grande dame Gertrude Thomas wrestled with her loss of status and of her former slaves. War, emancipation, and economic devastation affected her family intimately, and through her life McCurry helps us see how fundamental the changes of Reconstruction were.

Women’s War dismantles the long-standing fiction that women are outside of war and shows that they were indispensable actors in the Civil War, as they have been—and continue to be—in all wars.

About the Author:

Stephanie McCurry is R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History in Honor of Dwight D. Eisenhower at Columbia University. Her most recent book is Women’s War: Fighting and Surviving the American Civil War. Her other published works include Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South and Masters of Small Worlds: Yeoman Households, Gender Relations, and the Political Culture of the Antebellum South Carolina Low Country.

About the Speakers:

Drew Gilpin Faust is President Emerita and Arthur Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University. She is the author of Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War and This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, among other published works.

Camille Robcis is Associate Professor of History and French at Columbia University. She is the author of The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in France and Disalienation: Politics, Philosophy, and Radical Psychiatry in France (tentatively titled), a history of institutional psychotherapy, a psychiatric reform movement born in France after the Second World War.

Jeremy Kessler, Professor of Law at Columbia University, is a legal historian whose scholarship focuses on First Amendment law, administrative law, and constitutional law generally. Kessler’s forthcoming book, Fortress of Liberty: The Rise and Fall of the Draft and the Remaking of American Law, explores how the contested development of the military draft transformed the relationship between civil liberties law and the American administrative state.

Christopher Brown, Professor of History at Columbia University, specializes in the history of eighteenth century Britain, the early modern British Empire, and the comparative history of slavery and abolition, with secondary interests in the age of revolutions and the history of the Atlantic world. He is the author of Moral Capital: Foundations of British Abolitionism and Arming Slaves: From the Classical Era to the Modern Age.