Discussion Are Fewer Women Interested In The Civil War? If So, Why?

Joshism

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Messages
2,127
Location
Jupiter, FL
Yes, please. I'm really curious to see what you fellows might think about it. As General Lee said in the movie Gettysburg, "Do go on General."
This is a spinoff from the recent thread about declining interest in the ACW. A number of posters, including myself, observed those interested in the war are disproportionately male. I will hypothesize why in a reply.

Other posters may have a different perception from their experience or may have statistics to offer on women's interest in the Civil War.

This is not to say women can't or shouldn't be interested in the subject. There are a number of academics, rangers, authors, and posters on this forum who easily disprove anyone holding such notions.
 

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Andy Cardinal

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Messages
2,011
Location
Ohio
From a personal perspective, no. Although my wife is at best tolerant it, my mom, sister, and daughter all have an interest -- although they by no means are as obsessive about it as I am. Even my wife has become pretty informed about Gettysburg over the years.

That's not representative of society as a whole I realize. But it does show me, along with the number of very informed and active members on this site, that there are many women who do have an interest in the Civil War.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Messages
12,948
Location
Central Ohio
I don't think the question is phrased correctly. It should be, "Are Fewer Women Interested in the Civil War?" Because I can come up with a list of female authors of Civil War history books who are assuredly extremely interested...

In any case, particularly in the past, girls were brought up to be interested in "girl stuff" and not "boy stuff." And, evidently, war is "boy stuff." Fortunately, this attitude is (slowly) changing.
 

Joshism

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Messages
2,127
Location
Jupiter, FL
My guesses on why women are less likely to be interested in the Civil War than men, in no particular order and not all weighted equally:

The majority of those interested in military history are veterans, and veterans are predominantly male.

Military history has long been a male-dominated field. Women may encounter gatekeeping or other behavior that is unwelcoming. (This certainly happens in some other male-dominated fields, like gaming.)

Even without encountering any hostility, there are probably much larger social factors like demographic initeria. Garden clubs and book clubs I've encountered are still disproportionately female. If a woman (or black man) attended a CWRT and found it to be a bunch of old white guys, how many would become members no matter how welcoming the members were? I expect few. There are a number of groups (the nearest CWRT but also many non-CW groups) I have declined to join because everyone in the group was old enough to be my father or grandfather.

Military history means war, and war means killing. I would expect a great many women find the subject unsavory if not outright repulsive. It kills their sons and husbands. My father was a veteran and my mother never tried to discourage my interest in the subject, but if she were alive today I'm pretty sure this is the explanation she would give for why the Civil War or other military history held no interest to her.

The politicians and soldiers were, with a few instances of deception, male.

The Civil War has long been seen as military history first and political history second. In more recent decades there has been an increased attention to social/cultural issues which has surely made the Civil War more appealing to women.

Since the original thread stemmed from an article about battlefield visitation it's important to note increased Civil War interest and wider inclusion doesn't necessarily correspond to increased battlefield visitation. Battlefields are primarily about the battles themselves: where a unit fought and maneuvered, how the terrain influenced the outcome. Gettysburg has a museum about the larger issue of the war but it's an outlier. If you're interested in the experience of civilians in the Siege of Vicksburg, the Vicksburg battlefield has almost nothing to offer in that regard. If you're black and interested in what your ancestors experienced and how the war brought freedom to the enslaved the Antietam battlefield has little to offer you. This only changes if the NPS expands its visitor centers to offer exhibits on those subjects.
 

Joshism

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Messages
2,127
Location
Jupiter, FL
I don't think the question is phrased correctly. It should be, "Are Fewer Women Interested in the Civil War?" Because I can come up with a list of female authors of Civil War history books who are assuredly extremely interested...
Thread title corrected for grammatical accuracy.
 
Last edited:

Joshism

Sergeant Major
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Messages
2,127
Location
Jupiter, FL
On second thought the original title ("Are women less interested...") is potentially a question in its own right. Deep interest in the subject vs casual interest in the subject.

For example, if college Civil War classes average close to a 50-50 split, but CWRT and CWT are disproportionately male then then there is (on average) seemingly less interest among women.

In gaming, demographics have shifted in recent decades until there are nearly as many female gamers as male gamers for many video games, but the professional circuits and tournaments are still disproportionately male. Something similar is certainly possible in history, about the Civil War and other topics.
 

Eleanor Rose

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 26, 2016
Messages
5,705
Location
central NC
Thanks for starting this thread @Joshism! I am in no way looking to make this into a sexist debate although some views expressed in the other thread might be interpreted as slightly leaning in that direction. :wink: I'm just sincerely interested in why some folks may believe more men are interested in studying the Civil War than women. Since there doesn't appear to be any statistics available (calling on @Pat Young) all we really have to go on is personal opinion and conjecture. I hope some of the other ladies on this forum will join the conversation - @lelliott19, @NH Civil War Gal, @JPK Huson 1863, @Forks of the Ohio, @AshleyMel, @FarawayFriend, @DBF, @Northern Light, @luinrina, @Zella, @Belle Montgomery, @donna and all the rest.

In any case, particularly in the past, girls were brought up to be interested in "girl stuff" and not "boy stuff." And, evidently, war is "boy stuff."
This was certainly true during the 19th century.

I have more of an interest than my wife, but I assume those are personal choices and not gender based.
That has always been my assumption too. I resist the notion that women are "wired" to dislike studying war or war related subjects.

The Civil War has long been seen as military history first and political history second. In more recent decades there has been an increased attention to social/cultural issues which has surely made the Civil War more appealing to women.
I definitely think there is merit to this. The study of social and cultural issues brought me to this site. Well that and my crush on General Longstreet. :giggle: Of course then this begs the question, why does it matter what attracts someone to the study of the Civil War? Study and interest in a subject is study and interest in the subject. Right?
 
Joined
Aug 25, 2013
Messages
8,579
Location
Hannover, Germany
Seriously, I think it is true, both that fewer women are interested in the history of wars and also that women in general, as an average, are less interested. We female members here , who are more or less keenly interested in studying a war are the exception that proves the rule.
None of my female friends can understand why I am so fascinated by studying "how people killed each other" as one said to me once.
And I must admit, when I joined I was more interested in the "romantic" side, the stories of wives who were left behind, the longing on both sides...then I became fascinated by the medical side, both in treatment of wounds and what the human body can go through, and meanwhile my interest is also in modern wars. Not because women go out and fight also now, but because it is still more or less a man's world. I have read many, many personal recollections and I came to admire all who served, who found the courage and resolve to go out and fight for what they think is right and ultimately worth dying for.
But none of my friends share that interest and I even think they are spooked by me to a certain degree. They think women should be pacifists and use their influence on men to avoid wars. If so, then I'm a pervert. From all that I read about wars, be it the Civil War or any other, and fully aware that something ghastly as PTSD exists, I think now some things are worth fighting for and that wars will stay a reality as long as mankind will exist. But tell my female friends in real life that and they will turn away in disgust.
So I think my female friends here are a special kind. I do admire them and appreciate their knowledge and enthusiasm a lot and I'm proud to be part of the female community here - but indeed I think we are not representative.

We had a thread started by our unforgettable friend chellers adressing this topic. Well worth to have another look:
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/what-gender-are-we.101127/#post-898059
 

Eleanor Rose

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 26, 2016
Messages
5,705
Location
central NC

Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Messages
12,948
Location
Central Ohio
They think women should be pacifists and use their influence on men to avoid wars.
They have obviously never heard of Boudicca, Zenobia, Matilda ("Maud"), the Lady of Mercia, or Sichelgaita, to name just a few.

I remember my mom commenting that there was a popular idea that once women were given the vote, it would end war forever. And she noted that obviously didn't resonate with politicians like Margaret Thatcher...
 
Joined
Aug 25, 2013
Messages
8,579
Location
Hannover, Germany

1stMN

First Sergeant
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Joined
Dec 16, 2015
Messages
1,194
Location
Twin Cities Metro, MN
I believe this topic depends on a lot of different factors. In my family, for example, we have several certified "Civil War Nuts" including myself...all women. The gents in my family enjoy it but there are four in my immediate family that are extremely interested in the ACW.

My personal upbringing included a lot of moving. This included to the east coast where I was really exposed to the Civil War on a personal level when I first started visiting battlefields. If people have an opportunity to see and study it, then the desire to be involved will be there. That isn't to say that you have to see it in person to fall in love as we have international members on this forum--which is awesome :smile:

Its all about exposure. Build it and they will come, I guess, to borrow from Field of Dreams.
 

ami

Major General
Super Moderator
Joined
Apr 1, 1999
Messages
5,228
Location
the mountain state
My interest goes as far as watching my hubs shoot black powder competitively and the pretty art I have hanging in my walls.

In our first year married I was persuaded to try a re-enactment, it was 106 degrees and the air was a swimming pool. I declared never again. That was the Gettysburg of my discontent.

I am obviously invested in the forum, but more because I’m home and gave the time to do trivia and things. I gave even gleaned some knowledge by reading the trivia questions or perusing a thread before promoted. But The Civil War is not my passion.

I do know we gave many ladies here though, I hope that means good things for womens interest in the war!
 

Belle Montgomery

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 25, 2017
Messages
2,385
Location
44022
I believe because many women think the emphasis is on battles, weapons and tactics and that's less easy to relate to for them. Many society women were mostly "domestic" and their own diaries speak of being squelched as women to do anything else but nurse or sew and supporting roles and until one does more than scratch the surface that's mostly what comes up when researching or taught in schools. Most think only of Scarlet and hoop skirts if you bring up Civil War era women!
I remember my history classes centered on the battles and treaties and nothing on the women. There was no discussion of everyday life like recipes or basic survival which would've peeked my interest at a much younger age. That's why I love what happened again just this past weekend, a mother and her tween daughter came by to see what I had going on and her tween's eyes lit up when she saw that women could use their savvy to help the soldiers instead of just sit by the sidelines and sew at home. After touring the entire encampment that same mother strolled by with her again and shouted from the distance "you're still the best thing here!" Many a times I was told I've inspired school age girls to do a report on CW female spies. I also inspired a 40 something woman who had no idea about one of our local Union spies on my screen and got so excited because she said she actually found someone she was excited to reenact! I was even told by the man who had been playing Abe Lincoln for decades that he had NEVER heard of anything like these women until he saw my display and was so impressed and he told me was going to change his next speech to incorporate mentioning women in it and showed me the next time I saw him! Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not trying to brag here but only trying to emphasize the lack of knowledge even from those already interested in Civil War who attend reenactments!
So my guess is until more facts about the different roles CW era women get out and more are exposed to the amazing gamut they ran from surviving, organizing, soldiers, spying etc. their efforts will remain in the background or considered simply Hollywood's imagination like Scarlet O'Hara and Ada Munroe despite that the survival scenes actually did happen to women! It's up to us who love CW history to spread the word and inspire in any way we can! Those women deserve it!
The young lady below gets an E for effort (despite it's slower pace) and we need more like her to show the different ways girls/women can just have fun learning by simply experimenting with CW era things like recipes etc. can be! Experiments like this should be brought up in today's schools...curiosity is a great tool to inspire someone to learn more about any subject!
 
Last edited:

Mrs. V

First Sergeant
Joined
May 5, 2017
Messages
1,512
I blame my interest on my son. He’s the one who played for the Ohio Chataqua when they came to our town..it made me make him a Frock coat and trousers..he had a plastic saber, and curtain rope with tassels for his belt..his sword was thrust through there. Very farb by our standards now...I had to keep up with him, so I’ve been learning, and found a very real fascination. And having seen the Living History presenters, I thought, “I could do that!” And now I do.
 

donna

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
May 12, 2010
Messages
30,393
Location
Now Florida but always a Kentuckian
I know many women interested in the Civil War and other wars, such as American Revolution, War of 1812 etc. Most of my friends are interested thru their ancestors who fought in the war. They are members of the UDC, Daughters of American Revolution, Daughters of 1812, Spanish American War, World War I and II. It would be interesting to know how many ladies are on this forum.

Many are avid in doing Gemnealogy. At present I belong to 2 Genealogical Groups/Clubs. We are equally divided, women and men.

I also belong to UDC and am putting together my paperwork for DAR. Maybe some other ladies on here can say what they belong to and their interest in the War.
 
Joined
Mar 19, 2019
Messages
204
Location
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
I have no idea how to answer this question or the original opinion in the other thread that “women aren’t interested in war.” I am interested to see if anyone has some actual statistics in regards to either.


Personally, I don’t have a tremendous interest in military strategy. I saw the television miniseries “North and South” based on John Jakes’ trilogy when I was a kid. Then, I read the actual trilogy books. Then, I read “Gone with the Wind.” Then, I read a bunch of biographies about some of the most famous people from this war. Then, I read a historical fiction novel about Andrew Jackson. Then, I read some more historical fiction about the Civil War. To me, Civil War history and American history in general interests me from a “people” and “story” standpoint. I visited Gettysburg several times because I live in Pennsylvania. I visited the “high water mark.” I went to Devil’s Den. However, I have no interest in walking around the battlefield in order to retrace the entire three-day battle.
 


Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top