Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James P Whittenburg


This biography of Mary Greenhow Lee of Virginia examines life in the nineteenth century. Born in Richmond in 1819, Lee married a lawyer of modest means in Winchester, became widowed thirteen years later, lived through the Civil War in a border town coveted by both armies, then finally settled in Baltimore where she ran a boarding house to make a living until her death in 1907. The purpose of this study is to use a single personality from the past to examine life in the nineteenth-century South from a woman's perspective, using historic events as a backdrop to the narrative.;Mary Greenhow Lee's life illustrates the role of women in nineteenth-century southern society. Her story is also useful for examining the frustrations and triumphs of women who lived in areas of conflict during the Civil War. Additionally, there are two threads that run throughout this biography. One is the way Lee's character aided her in making decisions and overcoming difficult situations. Mary Greenhow Lee's intelligence, wit, and defiant spirit drove her own history, and explains how she made the myriad choices confronting her through her life. The other element that ties this biography together is Lee's sense of social place, studying the very intimate workings of a network of southerners who felt comfortable with and relied upon each other. The war led many of them, however, to create alliances with other classes for mutual support. Finally, Lee's Civil War journal demands a thematic approach to the war years, examining Mary Greenhow Lee's identity as a southern national, civilian reactions to life in a war zone, and the ways that Lee used her role as a woman to support Confederate soldiers while she manipulated and opposed Union occupiers in Winchester.



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