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


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Marti Moser

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Sep 21, 2017
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Kinda obvious that fewer women are interested in the Civil War. Not sure if the numbers are growing or not either. Beyond CWT, Houston CWRT, Baton Rouge CWRT,the Jefferson Civil War Symposium, Hood's Texas Brigade Association Re-activated and my SCV Camp,I don't have but about 3 CW acquaintances but 2 are women. One is my aunt who lives in the Florida panhandle. I only see her about once a year but we find some places to do some Civil War sightseeing. She and my uncle both have health issues and limited mobility and income. I have bought and sent her some books. Found out on our last visit that she is interested in paranormal activity so now I'm looking for CW books along those lines for her.

The Houston and Baton Rouge CWRTs don't have many women but quite a few attend the Jefferson CW Symposium and HTBAR. My SCV Camp is in Galveston. I know the UDC Chapter there is struggling to stay afloat and that saddens me.

My spouse has no interest in CW battlefields or cemeteries. She did enjoy our visit to the First White House Of The Confederacy in Montgomery last year. I think she would like Natchez. I dunno. She's just not a history enthusiast. Wish I could get her interested in Varina Davis. :D
I'm still kicking myself for not paying attention, especially in American history. I did love Texas History & still do. I consider myself pretty learned in Houston history, particularly 30s & up.
I now am catching up on my American history. I credit family studying for that. I've had a direct ancestor in every war starting with The American Revolution. (including fathers & mothers on the home front sewing, making bandages and sending food). Really love it.
 

randy596

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Jun 16, 2013
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Georgia
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.

I think 1stMN is on the right track. Personal upbringing has a lot to do with it. I'm a Navy brat and we moved, my grandfather's family settled in Gettysburg in the 1820s. (McMillan House) Exposure to an ACW battlefield at a young age makes an impression. For me, family history is what drew me in to the net. Gettysburg was (and still is) my favorite, but my Mom's lines were totally Southern. I'm not into all the battles - I wanted to read about/visit the places where my ancestors fought and some died. Trying to get into their heads (Southern) on why they chose the path they did and think they could win is impossible for me to understand at a distance of 154 years.
I admire "the rivet counters" on this forum, but I'm more into the why it happened and personal family history.
 

Claude Bauer

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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.
The title of this thread made me think of this satirical piece from The Onion, Late Blooming Dad Just Now Getting into Civil War History, where the concerned adult children of a middle-aged man are expressing relief that their dad is finally showing an interest the Civil War:

It took a while, but I’ve finally noticed Dad starting to show a lot of interest in the major Confederate military figures,” said his daughter, Julie Reeves, 22, who added that while she never wished to shame or ostracize her father, most of his friends had become obsessed with generals such as Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart at a much younger age. “He never cared much about that stuff until recently, and now all of a sudden it seems like it’s the only thing he ever thinks about.

“It’s as if one day, there was this whole world out there he’d never even noticed before,” she continued, “and the next day, he couldn’t stop talking about the Battle of Antietam.”

https://local.theonion.com/late-blooming-dad-just-now-getting-into-civil-war-histo-1819579124

My adult kids thought this was hilarious and spot on--yeah, it's mostly a guy thing, and many believe it's also mostly an older guy thing as well. As if to drive home the point, one of my kids once asked me for a stamp so he could mail a follow up letter to a potential employer after a job interview to make a good impression--I gave him a stamp, and he said, "Great. Thanks, dad. The Battle of Manassas. A bunch of people dying." He found an Elvis stamp and used that instead.

As a reenactor for almost 20 years, having done scores of living history events where I've interacted with the public, I've seen numerous men with their wives and kids in tow, where the demeanor and attitude of the women is explicitly meant to convey the message, "He dragged us here." While certainly there are some women interested in the subject and willingly accompany their spouses, it's also not a coincidence that there's a large shopping mall near the Gettysburg battlefield.

I'm sure there are exceptions, but I think that overall, Civil War battlefields are probably pretty low on the list of most women's favorite places to visit, if they're on the list at all. When they do visit Civil War encampments, men often get into long, detailed discussions about weapons and tactics, while women find the material culture more interesting--how the soldiers lived, what they wore, what they ate, medical care, music, etc. Women also seem grateful when we start playing fife and drum music and always appreciate the musical aspect of it, seeing that there's more available than the traditional focus of such events--who shot who where and how.
 

alan polk

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Jun 11, 2012
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A very interesting story of a young lady trying to increase interest in history among her peers.

From the article:

“Emma Bickford, a 19-year-old college student, finds herself lamenting the decline of interest in history, especially among her peers. Instead of watching the trend continue, Bickford decided to step up. She’s making an effort to tie young people back to the roots that formed the world they live in. By creating a business that meshes historical lessons with fashion—aimed specifically at women her own age—Bickford is attempting to advocate for a resurgence of interest in history.”

I say good for her!

The rest of the article can be found below:

 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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This is so funny. In the time elapsing since this thread was started we've had more female members join than I can remember since 2012. Just mentioned it to @donna yesterday!

When my daughter was at Pennsylvania Gettysburg College :angel: ( and never knowingly set foot on the battlefield- don't tell her ) I asked if she knew any students who chose Gettysburg because of the ACW connection. It just seemed insane there could be none. OH yes, there were, look over there Mom, there are some of them. I looked ' over there '. Most were young women.

The battle intruded on her anyway. That's an awfully haunted college especially in the off campus housing.
 
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This is so funny. In the time elapsing since this thread was started we've had more female members join than I can remember since 2012. Just mentioned it to @donna yesterday!

When my daughter was at Pennsylvania Gettysburg College :angel: ( and never knowingly set foot on the battlefield- don't tell her ) I asked if she knew any students who chose Gettysburg because of the ACW connection. It just seemed insane there could be none. OH yes, there were, look over there Mom, there are some of them. I looked ' over there '. Most were young women.

The battle intruded on her anyway. That's an awfully haunted college especially in the off campus housing.
I took a moonlit "ghost walk" in Gettysburg once. The walk wasn't on the battlefield, since it was after sunset. Most of the walk was actually on and immediately around Gettysburg College.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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I think women were always interested in history but were often shut out. I think I read in CWT somewhere that in the ‘80s women weren’t “allowed” at Civil War Round Table meetings:eek::sick::confused: If that was the case, then every venue of the Civil War from collecting to scholarship lost out.
 

speedylee

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Aug 15, 2017
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136
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.
This is an interesting question and I would like to answer in a slightly off-center way: Many of the top Civil War historians are women. They include Susannah J. Ural, Judith Giesberg, Carol Reardon, Jennifer Murray, Megan Kate Nelson, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Katy Shively. There are others. My point is that I can't speak to whether or not women are as interested in the war as are men, but certainly women have a very strong voice in the research of the war. I have heard most of the women on my list above speak at the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College through the years and all have been outstanding.
 

NH Civil War Gal

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Can you give us an age range on these women? I'm asking because, if it's true that in the '80s that women weren't allowed to be at some CW round tables, then that golden age of collecting, etc is now going by and everyone is downsizing.

I have no hard core proof on this next statement, but I've had a distinct feeling that in the past, there hasn't been the interest or respect given to the social history or impact on women in the war as there is now. Not that women can't study hard core battle techniques too. But while I can no longer think of a specific example, there have been a couple of times, in CWT, when I've asked about a motivation behind a commander's (captain, general, officer's) command/decision/thought process, and I sort of get the feeling that men (in general) don't think of the question that way. I'm very interested in what motivated the players in the CW from the highest to the lowest and yet, I've been told in a PM (a year ago) that "that's only how women look at the war." In other words, not a collegiate worthy consideration.

If this is a younger crop, for the most part, coming along, than hurray to them!
 

Northern Light

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Can you give us an age range on these women? I'm asking because, if it's true that in the '80s that women weren't allowed to be at some CW round tables, then that golden age of collecting, etc is now going by and everyone is downsizing.

I have no hard core proof on this next statement, but I've had a distinct feeling that in the past, there hasn't been the interest or respect given to the social history or impact on women in the war as there is now. Not that women can't study hard core battle techniques too. But while I can no longer think of a specific example, there have been a couple of times, in CWT, when I've asked about a motivation behind a commander's (captain, general, officer's) command/decision/thought process, and I sort of get the feeling that men (in general) don't think of the question that way. I'm very interested in what motivated the players in the CW from the highest to the lowest and yet, I've been told in a PM (a year ago) that "that's only how women look at the war." In other words, not a collegiate worthy consideration.

If this is a younger crop, for the most part, coming along, than hurray to them!
I would say about half of those names are under 40, Tina. There are many young women producing scholarly research and not just in social issues arising from the conflict. It is good to see. Explore "Emerging Civil War" to find some of them.
 

Acbernsen

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Jul 12, 2016
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Men are more interested in war because of our instincts. Not very politically correct, but obviously true.
 

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