Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




In the years following the Civil War, southerners struggled to adapt to the changes wrought by the war. Many, however, worked to resist those changes. In particular, southern men fought the revised racial and gender roles that resulted from defeat and emancipation. Southern men felt emasculated by both events and sought to consolidate the control they had enjoyed before the war. In their efforts to restore their pre-war hegemony, these men used coercion and violence with regularity.;White southern women were often as adamant as their male counterparts. Women of the elite classes were most eager to bolster antebellum ideals of womanhood, the privileges of which they enjoyed and guarded carefully. In keeping with the turmoil of the war, however, white women endorsed, encouraged, and engaged in acts of racial violence alongside their men. Such behavior may have been intended to preserve the antebellum order, but it served only to alter it.;In addition, black women were as determined to carve out a measure of womanhood for themselves as powerfully as white women worked to keep it from them. Black women asserted their rights as mothers, wives, and independent free women in the post-war years. Ironically, they too participated in acts of intimidation and racial violence in an effort to safeguard their rights. Such activities did not simply force the inclusion of black women in white definitions of womanhood, but altered the meaning of womanhood for both races.;The fields of battle on which these men and women engaged included the struggle for land and labor immediately following the war's end; the rise of black politicization and the reaction of white Democrats; the creation of the Ku Klux Klan as an agent of both gender and politics; the election of 1876 in which men and women of both races used the political contest to assert their competing gender definitions; and the rise of lynching as the final, desperate act of antebellum white manhood. Despite the reactionary nature of white women's activism, the fact of their activism and the powerful presence of black women in these violent exchanges reshaped the nature of southern gender roles forever.



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