Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




James P. Whittenburg

Committee Members

Susan Kern

Katherine K. Preston


As the First Lady of the Confederacy, Varina Davis was expected by her peers to fill myriad social, political and cultural roles. Forced into the political spotlight in Civil War Richmond during a time of extreme social and cultural flux, Varina received both praise and critique from her female peers as she struggled to meet their divergent and seemingly impossible expectations and to serve as a paradigm for the elite women of her political sphere. Primary research into the writings of Varina's female peers about the First Lady's conduct in her prestigious political and social role reveals that Varina's complex, controversial and rather confounded character actually was a much more realistic embodiment of the complexitities of elite southern female society at that time. In life and in death, Varina has remained a controversial figure in history memory, and historiography. However, by analyzing her through the multiple lenses of her female peers, we are better able to understand Varina's "confounded" nature and reputation, and thus glean a clearer image of her role, and the roles of her peers, in southern society, history and memory.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Thesis is part of Honors ETD pilot project, 2008-2013. Migrated from Dspace in 2016.

On-Campus Access Only