Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate ...

Pat Young

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Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture by Karen Cox published by Florida University Press (2003). Hardcover $55.00, Paperback $24.99.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) was among the largest and most powerful women’s organizations in the South. While the Daughters lionized the mythical way of life of the Old South, they defied gender roles by aggressively pressed their views upon their society.

Karen Cox, in Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture, her groundbreaking study of the UDC, places these elite women on center stage in creating how the Civil War would be remembered for generations. According to Cox, “women were longtime leaders in the movement to memorialize the Confederacy, commonly referred to as the “Lost Cause,” and were active participants in debates over what would constitute a ‘new’ South.” The Daughters were never happy to merely remember the Confederacy. Cox writes that the Daughters “raised the stakes of the Lost Cause by making it a movement about vindication, as well as memorialization. “

The Daughters “erected monuments, monitored history for ‘truthfulness,’ and sought to educate coming generations of white southerners about an idyllic Old South and a just cause—states’ rights. They did so not simply to pay homage to the Confederate dead. Rather, UDC members aspired to transform military defeat into a political and cultural victory, where states’ rights and white supremacy remained intact.”

Cox says that by “preserving and transmitting these ideals through…’Confederate culture,’ UDC members believed they could vindicate their Confederate ancestors.” This “Confederate culture” includes “those ideas and symbols that Lost Cause devotees associated with the former Confederacy,” writes Cox. “The images and beliefs are based on a hierarchy of race and class and often reflect the patrician outlook of Lost Cause leaders,” she says.

Note: Because of its length, this review will be posted in two parts.
 
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Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
Part II:

The Daughters are probably best known today for the ubiquitous Confederate soldier monuments in cities throughout the South that they pushed local and state governments to erect. However, they were involved in a whole lot more. For example, as Confederate veterans aged, the Daughters became a moving force for state care for Confederate elderly. When the old soldiers’ homes refused to admit women, thereby breaking up couples that had been married for decades, the Daughters mobilized for the admission of wives. The precarious financial position of elderly widows of Confederate soldiers led them to campaign for widows’ homes.

The progressivism of the Daughters was limited by considerations of social class. Efforts by Northern philanthropists to create schools for African Americans led to fears that the South might become a region of educated blacks and illiterate whites. Karen Cox writes of the effort by some Daughters to improve education:

Education for the poor of Confederate descent was…part of the UDC’s benevolent mission. However, the Daughters’ response to assisting poor whites in getting an education was mixed. While many Daughters supported industrial education for poor whites, particularly in the rural South, on the whole the UDC did not lend its full support. Individual members and chapters of the UDC often acted independently to promote and support a program of industrial mission schools, while the general organization balked at providing financial assistance for several years. This reluctance was primarily because of the Daughters’ pledge to provide for the region’s aging Confederates, as well as their resolute commitment to building monuments, which took financial precedence.

Some Daughters challenged the lack of assistance to the poor children and grandchildren of ordinary Confederate soldiers. Cox writes of Daughter Rebecca Latimer Felton:

whose personal crusade was to educate rural farm women—not only to empower them personally, but in order to sustain “Anglo Saxon” supremacy. In many respects, her progressivism was Confederate, since she often made the point that many of these young farm women were the direct descendents of Confederate veterans. As she sought to enlist other southern women in this cause, she saw other UDC members as her most obvious allies.

Rebecca Felton spoke to small groups of the UDC throughout Georgia, arguing that they should take action to relieve the plight of southern farm women. Then, in 1897, she had the opportunity to address the en tire convention of the UDC. Felton traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, where the Daughters were holding their general convention and delivered a speech entitled “The Importance of the Education of Poor Girls of the South.” Motivated to action by the poverty and ignorance visible in her own state and conditions she knew existed throughout the South,

Felton presented her case to the UDC. The poor southern white girls of whom she spoke may not have been “cultured ladies” like the Daughters, but the fathers and grandfathers of those girls had also fought to defend the Confederacy. Therefore, southern men and women had a “duty” to help the descendants of those who died during the “unequal struggle of the sixties,” by providing poor white girls with higher education. Felton’s speech appealed to the Daughters’ race, class, and gender interests.

An avowed white supremacist, she implored the Daughters to assist poor white girls because they were “the coming mothers of the great majority of the Anglo-Saxon race in the South.” She pointed with disdain at the money northern philanthropists had given to educate African Americans in the region. While Felton believed that “giving literary cultivation and the ballot to a race before it was fitted for either” was a “waste of money,” she also feared that poor whites would not be able to compete “with the children of the former slaves” who received a technical or university education. The Daughters must help these young women, Felton pleaded, because “the destiny of the white population rests in their [white girls’] hands.”

Another Daughter advocating educational reform was Martha Gielow of Alabama. Cox describes her appeal for expanded educational opportunities and the response she got from the leader of the organization. Gielow hoped:

to promote “industrial and practical education for white children throughout the South.” She hoped to establish industrial “mission schools,” especially for the most destitute white children living in the mountains, and to support such schools that were already operating in those areas. To gain help in this task, Gielow sent a circular to the presidents-general of the local, state, and general divisions of the UDC, requesting their assistance. She implored the UDC to join her in educating “neglected Southern white children” in order to prepare them “for the duties of citizenship.” …She solicited the Daughters’ help by asking them to assist the less fortunate of their race, people who were “white, of the pure Anglo-Saxon race.” She raised concerns about the money spent by northern philanthropists to educate African Americans in the South and then critically questioned the UDC about the way it spent the money it raised. “What good will monuments to our ancestors be,” Gielow asked, “if our Southland is to become the land of educated blacks and uneducated whites?”...

UDC President-General Lizzie George Henderson of Mississippi issued her own response to Gielow. The UDC should not “educate any but Confederate children,” and definitely not “the children of the mountain whites who fought against the South,” Henderson wrote—highlighting the classism of the UDC’s membership.

The UDC invested its educational funds in other priorities. In keeping with its elite leadership’s class bias, it funded college scholarships, not education for the poor. These typically took the form of Confederate essay contests. One contest at Columbia University led to embarrassment when the daughters discovered that the winning essay described the Daughters’ beloved icon Robert E. Lee as a “traitor.” The UDC members who organized the contest were roundly denounced for holding it at a university that admitted “Negroes.”

Laura Martin Rose, on the other hand, drew only praise when she used her position with the UDC to create and promote a children’s book praising the Ku Klux Klan.

By the 1920s, the United Daughters of the Confederacy began a long slow decline in power and prestige. For three decades they had captured the allegiance of the elite women of the South. They had helped form the Lost Cause version of the Civil War and Reconstruction and they had hounded dissenting teachers and textbooks out of Southern schools. Their viewpoint continued on in the attitudes of the men and women educated according to their precepts, even as the organization declined. Their work lived on long after they were gone.

Dixie’s Daughters is a witty and fascinating examination of an organization that had not attracted enough scholarly attention before Cox’s study was published. I recommend it to anyone interested in Confederate monumentation, the propagation of the Lost Cause view of American history, and the history of American women.

Patrick Young, Esq. is Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra University School of Law where he also co-directs the school's Immigration Law Clinic. He is the Program Director of the Central American Refugee Center and Executive Vice Chair of the New York Immigration Coalition. He is the author of the web series The Immigrants' Civil War.

This concludes the review.
 
Last edited:

Canadian

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 24, 2017
I've read excerpts of the UDC "catechisms" that children used to memorize. The description of the coddled slaves and the lines about the depredations of Reconstruction are astonishing to the modern reader, but must have influenced the historical beliefs of many thousands of Americans.
 

RobertP

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Nov 11, 2009
Location
Dallas
Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture by Karen Cox published by Florida University Press. Hardcover $55.00, Paperback $24.99.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) was among the largest and most powerful women’s organizations in the South. While the Daughters lionized the mythical way of life of the Old South, they defied gender roles by aggressively pressed their views upon their society.

Karen Cox, in Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture, her groundbreaking study of the UDC, places these elite women on center stage in creating how the Civil War would be remembered for generations. According to Cox, “women were longtime leaders in the movement to memorialize the Confederacy, commonly referred to as the “Lost Cause,” and were active participants in debates over what would constitute a ‘new’ South.” The Daughters were never happy to merely remember the Confederacy. Cox writes that the Daughters “raised the stakes of the Lost Cause by making it a movement about vindication, as well as memorialization. “

The Daughters “erected monuments, monitored history for ‘truthfulness,’ and sought to educate coming generations of white southerners about an idyllic Old South and a just cause—states’ rights. They did so not simply to pay homage to the Confederate dead. Rather, UDC members aspired to transform military defeat into a political and cultural victory, where states’ rights and white supremacy remained intact.”

Cox says that by “preserving and transmitting these ideals through…’Confederate culture,’ UDC members believed they could vindicate their Confederate ancestors.” This “Confederate culture” includes “those ideas and symbols that Lost Cause devotees associated with the former Confederacy,” writes Cox. “The images and beliefs are based on a hierarchy of race and class and often reflect the patrician outlook of Lost Cause leaders,” she says.

Note: Because of its length, this review will be posted in two parts.
You ought to correct the thread title. It's "Confederate Culture", not Confederate "Confederate Cult".
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
You ought to correct the thread title. It's "Confederate Culture", not Confederate "Confederate Cult".
Unfortunately the title of the book exceeded the number of letters allowed by CWT for the title of a thread. But since the allowed letters could lead to confusion, I substituted an ellipsis for the word "culture."
 

ForeverFree

Major
Joined
Feb 6, 2010
Location
District of Columbia
Part II:

The Daughters are probably best known today for the ubiquitous Confederate soldier monuments in cities throughout the South that they pushed local and state governments to erect. However, they were involved in a whole lot more. For example, as Confederate veterans aged, the Daughters became a moving force for state care for Confederate elderly. When the old soldiers’ homes refused to admit women, thereby breaking up couples that had been married for decades, the Daughters mobilized for the admission of wives. The precarious financial position of elderly widows of Confederate soldiers led them to campaign for widows’ homes.

The progressivism of the Daughters was limited by considerations of social class. Efforts by Northern philanthropists to create schools for African Americans led to fears that the South might become a region of educated blacks and illiterate whites. Karen Cox writes of the effort by some Daughters to improve education:

Education for the poor of Confederate descent was…part of the UDC’s benevolent mission. However, the Daughters’ response to assisting poor whites in getting an education was mixed. While many Daughters supported industrial education for poor whites, particularly in the rural South, on the whole the UDC did not lend its full support. Individual members and chapters of the UDC often acted independently to promote and support a program of industrial mission schools, while the general organization balked at providing financial assistance for several years. This reluctance was primarily because of the Daughters’ pledge to provide for the region’s aging Confederates, as well as their resolute commitment to building monuments, which took financial precedence.

Some Daughters challenged the lack of assistance to the poor children and grandchildren of ordinary Confederate soldiers. Cox writes of Daughter Rebecca Latimer Felton:

whose personal crusade was to educate rural farm women—not only to empower them personally, but in order to sustain “Anglo Saxon” supremacy. In many respects, her progressivism was Confederate, since she often made the point that many of these young farm women were the direct descendents of Confederate veterans. As she sought to enlist other southern women in this cause, she saw other UDC members as her most obvious allies.

Rebecca Felton spoke to small groups of the UDC throughout Georgia, arguing that they should take action to relieve the plight of southern farm women. Then, in 1897, she had the opportunity to address the en tire convention of the UDC. Felton traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, where the Daughters were holding their general convention and delivered a speech entitled “The Importance of the Education of Poor Girls of the South.” Motivated to action by the poverty and ignorance visible in her own state and conditions she knew existed throughout the South,

Felton presented her case to the UDC. The poor southern white girls of whom she spoke may not have been “cultured ladies” like the Daughters, but the fathers and grandfathers of those girls had also fought to defend the Confederacy. Therefore, southern men and women had a “duty” to help the descendants of those who died during the “unequal struggle of the sixties,” by providing poor white girls with higher education. Felton’s speech appealed to the Daughters’ race, class, and gender interests.

An avowed white supremacist, she implored the Daughters to assist poor white girls because they were “the coming mothers of the great majority of the Anglo-Saxon race in the South.” She pointed with disdain at the money northern philanthropists had given to educate African Americans in the region. While Felton believed that “giving literary cultivation and the ballot to a race before it was fitted for either” was a “waste of money,” she also feared that poor whites would not be able to compete “with the children of the former slaves” who received a technical or university education. The Daughters must help these young women, Felton pleaded, because “the destiny of the white population rests in their [white girls’] hands.”

Another Daughter advocating educational reform was Martha Gielow of Alabama. Cox describes her appeal for expanded educational opportunities and the response she got from the leader of the organization. Gielow hoped:

to promote “industrial and practical education for white children throughout the South.” She hoped to establish industrial “mission schools,” especially for the most destitute white children living in the mountains, and to support such schools that were already operating in those areas. To gain help in this task, Gielow sent a circular to the presidents-general of the local, state, and general divisions of the UDC, requesting their assistance. She implored the UDC to join her in educating “neglected Southern white children” in order to prepare them “for the duties of citizenship.” …She solicited the Daughters’ help by asking them to assist the less fortunate of their race, people who were “white, of the pure Anglo-Saxon race.” She raised concerns about the money spent by northern philanthropists to educate African Americans in the South and then critically questioned the UDC about the way it spent the money it raised. “What good will monuments to our ancestors be,” Gielow asked, “if our Southland is to become the land of educated blacks and uneducated whites?”...

UDC President-General Lizzie George Henderson of Mississippi issued her own response to Gielow. The UDC should not “educate any but Confederate children,” and definitely not “the children of the mountain whites who fought against the South,” Henderson wrote—highlighting the classism of the UDC’s membership.

The UDC invested its educational funds in other priorities. In keeping with its elite leadership’s class bias, it funded college scholarships, not education for the poor. These typically took the form of Confederate essay contests. One contest at Columbia University led to embarrassment when the daughters discovered that the winning essay described the Daughters’ beloved icon Robert E. Lee as a “traitor.” The UDC members who organized the contest were roundly denounced for holding it at a university that admitted “Negroes.”

Laura Martin Rose, on the other hand, drew only praise when she used her position with the UDC to create and promote a children’s book praising the Ku Klux Klan.

By the 1920s, the United Daughters of the Confederacy began a long slow decline in power and prestige. For three decades they had captured the allegiance of the elite women of the South. They had helped form the Lost Cause version of the Civil War and Reconstruction and they had hounded dissenting teachers and textbooks out of Southern schools. Their viewpoint continued on in the attitudes of the men and women educated according to their precepts, even as the organization declined. Their work lived on long after they were gone.

Dixie’s Daughters is a witty and fascinating examination of an organization that had not attracted enough scholarly attention before Cox’s study was published. I recommend it to anyone interested in Confederate monumentation, the propagation of the Lost Cause view of American history, and the history of American women.

Patrick Young, Esq. is Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra University School of Law where he also co-directs the school's Immigration Law Clinic. He is the Program Director of the Central American Refugee Center and Executive Vice Chair of the New York Immigration Coalition. He is the author of the web series The Immigrants' Civil War.

This concludes the review.

Thanks for your work, Pat.

On this forum, we've talked a lot about scholars who propagated the Lost Cause ideal. They certainly had an impact. I think it's arguable that the UDC, the film Birth of a Nation, and other elements of contemporary culture had as much an impact, and probably more, than these academics.

The UDC was a "bottoms up" organization, although it did have elitists elements. But through its use of memorialization in the public square, the control it exercised over school book content, and the way they made the Confederacy "fashionable," they affected a view of the War and Reconstruction that directly impacted people. In a way that the ivory tower did not and could not.

When we talk about historical memory, and what the average person comprehends and understands about the past, these folks are the real memory-makers.

- Alan
 
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Canadian

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 24, 2017
Thanks for your work, Pat.

On this forum, we've talked a lot about scholars who propagated the Lost Cause ideal. They certainly had an impact. I think it's arguable that the UDC, the film Birth of a Nation, and other elements of contemporary culture had as much an impact, and probably more, than these academics.

The UDC was a "bottoms up" organization, although it did have elitists elements. But through its use of memorialization in the public square, the control it exercised over school book content, and the way they made the Confederacy "fashionable," they affected a view of the War and Reconstruction that directly impacted people. In a a way that the ivory tower did not and could not.

When we talk about historical memory, and what the average person comprehends and understands about the past, these folks are the real memory-makers.

- Alan

I would agree. It extended far beyond the reach of the South.

As a Canadian who did not formally study the Civil War in school, most of my casual reading about the war as an adolescent had a very Lost Cause influence, although I wasn't familiar with the term. Gone With The Wind WAS the Civil War, as far as I knew. I gobbled up hagiographies if Robert E. Lee. This influence reached into foreign countries, to people like me with no connection to the war.

Fast forward years later. Still just casually interested in American history, I thought Ken Burns' documentary very informative and well balanced, although now, many years later, I think that Shelby Foote had a bias that distorted the whole work.

Fast forward more decades. I got a more informed approach by watching David Blight online, reading some books and taking a course at a Canadian university.

However, I think that the UDC approach would be closer to what most Canadians who know anything about the War would recognize.
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
I've read excerpts of the UDC "catechisms" that children used to memorize. The description of the coddled slaves and the lines about the depredations of Reconstruction are astonishing to the modern reader, but must have influenced the historical beliefs of many thousands of Americans.
I am going to try and start a thread with resources from the UDC.
 

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Jan 7, 2013
Location
Long Island, NY
In response to a question posed earlier by @DRW about whether I would recommend the book, I tend not give thumbs up or down. If all you like is battle books, you may not like this. However, I enjoyed it and learned a lot from it. It is very well-written for an academic book. Very interesting material.
 
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