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Home, Sweet Home: Gender in the Antebellum Household


     Introduction | Domestic Sphere | Men's Role as Head of Household | Call to War | Conclusion

The early years of the war united white men and women to fulfill their patriotic duties. White men left their household to protect their dependents. White women sacrificed their male kin for the protection of the South. White women fundraised while their husbands, brothers and sons marched to the battlefield. The call to war extended antebellum ideas like female sacrifice and male protection. While the change was subtle at first, the war began to blur public and private roles for white women. As female patriots and objects of obligation, white women assumed a more direct relationship with the state. The secession crisis brought gender to the forefront by using the rhetoric of protection for the Cause. Rich and poor men left for battle to protect their women and households making white women objects of obligation. White women did not always feel at ease with the cause because it pushed women in the sphere of politics. As the war continued, the private sphere became unprotected and endangered.  The true test of separate sphere ideology came as wartime mobilization left white women without protection.