Daughters Of Canaan

Daughters Of Canaan: A Saga of Southern Women

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Daughters Of Canaan
    Book Description:

    FromGone with the WindtoDesigning Women, images of southern females that emerge from fiction and film tend to obscure the diversity of American women from below the Mason-Dixon line. In a work that deftly lays bare a myriad of myths and stereotypes while presenting true stories of ambition, grit, and endurance, Margaret Ripley Wolfe offers the first professional historical synthesis of southern women's experiences across the centuries.

    In telling their story, she considers many ordinary lives -- those of Native-American, African-American, and white women from the Tidewater region and Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta to the Gulf Coastal Plain, women whose varied economic and social circumstances resist simple explanations. Wolfe examines critical eras, outstanding personalities and groups -- wives, mothers, pioneers, soldiers, suffragists, politicians, and civil rights activists -- and the impact of the passage of time and the pressure of historical forces on the region's females.

    The historical southern woman, argues Wolfe, has operated under a number of handicaps, bearing the full weight of southern history, mythology, and legend. Added to these have been the limitations of being female in a patriarchal society and the constraining images of the "southern belle" and her mentor, the "southern lady." In addition, the specter of race has haunted all southern women. Gender is a common denominator, but according to Wolfe, it does not transcend race, class, point of view, or a host of other factors.

    Intrigued by the imagery as well as the irony of biblical stories and southern history, Wolfe titles her workDaughters of Canaan. Canaan symbolizes promise, and for activist women in particular the South has been about promise as much as fulfillment. General readers and students of southern and women's history will be drawn to Wolfe's engrossing chronicle.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5792-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Charles P. Roland
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. 1-10)

    For thousands of years the eyes of women have watched the sun rise over the misty South, but the southern woman of myth and legend was born almost four centuries ago when the English planted the first permanent colonies in North America, and she survives as the twentieth century nears its end. I am privileged to chronicle her story. It is one of hardships, endurance, fortitude, triumphs, and, above all, survival—a testament to the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. I write of real warm-blooded women, untainted and unaffected by scholarly digressions, females who have had no truck with passing...

  6. ONE In the Beginning
    (pp. 11-32)

    During the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries the American South witnessed a fundamental social, political, economic, and environmental transformation. European white males in the Chesapeake area and elsewhere in the southern colonies began the process of subduing the Native-American cultures that they encountered and imposing their will on this new land and its people.¹ The dominant English as well as other ethnic groups carried with them to North America considerable cultural baggage which formed the basis of the New World that they subsequently created. As a Creole society took shape on land that Europeans considered virgin, old familiar ideas about...

  7. TWO And Another Generation Cometh
    (pp. 33-57)

    During the last half of the eighteenth century and into the opening decades of the new one, revolutionary turmoil and the expanding frontier provided the grist for American myths and legends. Masculine events played out in the public arena commanded center stage and obscured the more ordinary personal aspects and inner concerns of feminine existence. Dramatic though the circumstances surrounding warfare, treaty negotiations, and nation making were, they brought few fundamental changes in the status of most women; and the relatively minor transformations that occurred may have been more stylistic than substantive, more temporary than permanent. Still, the radicalism of...

  8. THREE A Garden Enclosed Is My Sister, My Spouse
    (pp. 58-80)

    Moving from the colonial and revolutionary periods into the modern era required the American people to negotiate the nineteenth century. During that passage they attempted to address on their own terms the disparity between the ideals to which the nation aspired and the realities that it ultimately came to accept. Below the Mason-Dixon line the frontier process continued even as a beleaguered society became increasingly rigid. Although stigmatizing the South has soothed the nation’s conscience, Dixie has never been able to claim a monopoly on inequality and injustice; it has, however, played host to peculiar regional manifestations of both. During...

  9. FOUR And if a House Be Divided Against Itself
    (pp. 81-109)

    Professional historians have treated the Civil War as a watershed—a great divide—in national and regional history, yet events of that era did not produce a total transformation of either American or southern society. Protracted military action, followed by constitutional changes, eradicated slavery and made legal alterations in the status of blacks in American society. In 1876-77, however, to retain control of the presidency, the Republicans, who had not been particularly concerned about improving the status of free blacks north of the Mason-Dixon line, abandoned their newly liberated southern counterparts. In return for an election victory the party of...

  10. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  11. FIVE Set Thine House in Order
    (pp. 110-144)

    Those who harbored expectations that a dramatically different South might rise quickly from the ashes of the North’s military victory seriously underestimated the tenacity of native-born white southerners. The great majority of the men as well as the women of Dixie clung steadfastly to their traditions. Above all, they continued to share with their northern counterparts a fervent belief in the superiority of the white race.¹ The general acceptance of female subordination also knew no geographical boundaries. Neither northerners nor southerners in the late nineteenth century seemed prepared to come to terms with the radical and fundamental social changes that...

  12. SIX Looking for New Heavens and a New Earth
    (pp. 145-178)

    In America and in the South the right to vote marked an important watershed in the crusade for women’s rights. In some respects, however, suffrage may have been little more than a façade, a pretty face that served as a distraction from the continuing sexual discrimination, injustice, inequity, and outright degradation. More than a few southern females of the interwar period possessed an intimate acquaintance with hardship, and their lives often bore the stamp of a persistent, demanding, and sometimes cruel rural tradition. Others traded hardscrabble farming for a harsh, monotonous existence as mill hands. All told, they belonged to...

  13. SEVEN A Time to Get, and a Time to Lose
    (pp. 179-204)

    In August 1945 the horrors of the global war, after grinding on for half a decade in seemingly endless fashion, came to an abrupt halt, punctuated by the detonation in quick succession of two atomic weapons. Americans breathed an almost audible sigh of relief, and postwar readjustment began. For the American South the next five decades brought what one eminent scholar has termed the Improbable Era and another has labeled the Promised Land.¹ As the crucible for the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the region experienced its “Second Reconstruction.” Political realignments also gave rise to a relatively...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 205-208)

    For some four hundred years, women of the American South have been engaged in a great trek through time. Their travels for the most part represent a chronicle of ordinary people suspended in the rather monotonous, predictable routine of day-to-day existence and rushed along by myriad developments over which they have had little control. Once in a great while, when confronted with extraordinary circumstances and unusual challenges, they have risen to heroic heights. The recorded pages of that historical human passage reveal a story of epic proportions, a saga of surprising strength. Yet southern women, past and present, were and...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 209-257)
  16. Index
    (pp. 258-282)