Clinton, Catherine 1952–
Clinton, Catherine 1952–
PERSONAL: Born April 5, 1952, in Seattle, WA; daughter of Fletcher Allen and Claudene (an executive) Johnson; stepfather's name, George W. Clinton; married Daniel Lee Colbert (an architect), June 20, 1982; children: Drew, Ned. Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1973; University of Sussex, M.A., 1974; Princeton University, Ph.D., 1980. Politics: "Feminist."
CAREER: Writer and historian. University of Benghazi, Benghazi, Libya, lecturer in history, 1974; Union College, Schenectady, NY, assistant professor of history, 1979–83; Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, assistant professor of history, 1983–88; Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, visiting professor of history, 1988–90; Harvard University, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, visiting fellow, 1993–97; Brown University, Providence, RI, visiting professor of history, 1993; Douglas Southall Freeman Distinguished Visiting Chair of History, University of Richmond, 1997–98; Lewis Jones Distinguished Visiting Chair of History, Wofford College, 1998–99; Weissman Visiting Chair of History, Baruch College, City University of New York, 1999–2001; Mark Clark Chair of History, the Citadel, 2001–02; visiting professor, Wesleyan University, 2003–04. Charles Warren Center Affiliate, Harvard University, 1998–99; Gilder Lehrman Center Affiliate, Yale University, 1999–. Member of Pulitzer Prize jury for history, 1986, Francis Parkman Prize committee, 1991, Pulitzer Prize jury for biography, 1993, and Lincoln Prize jury, 1995. Consultant to television corporations, stations, and production companies, including the Arts & Entertainment Channel, History Channel, Disney Channel, WGBH (Boston, MA), and Greystone Productions.
MEMBER: Organization of American Historians, Southern Historical Association, Southern Association of Women Historians (president, 1997–98), Society of American Historians, Screenwriters Guild East.
AWARDS, HONORS: Isobel Briggs traveling fellowship; Bank Street Poetry Prize, Bank Street College, and Best Book for Young Adults, American Library Association, both 1998, both for I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry; Best Children's Books list, New York Public Library, 2003, for A Poem of Her Own: Voices of American Women Yesterday and Today; Best Nonfiction Books list, Chicago Tribune and Christian Science Monitor, 2004, for Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom.
The Plantation Mistress: Woman's World in the Old South, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1982.
(Compiler, with G.J. Barker-Benfield) Portraits of American Women, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991.
(Editor) Half Sisters of History: Southern Women and the American Past, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 1994.
Tara Revisited: Women, War and the Plantation Legend, Abbeville (New York, NY), 1995.
Life in Civil War America, Eastern National Park and Monument Association (Conshohocken, PA), 1996.
(Editor, with Michele Gillespie) The Devil's Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1997.
We, the People (kindergarten through sixth grade textbook series), Houghton (Boston, MA), 1997.
(Editor, with Michele Gillespie) Taking off the White Gloves: Southern Women and Women Historians, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1998.
Civil War Stories, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1998.
(Editor) I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry, illustrations by Stephen Alcorn, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1998.
Public Women and the Confederacy, Marquette University Press (Milwaukee, WI), 1999.
The Scholastic Encyclopedia of the Civil War, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
(Editor) Southern Families at War: Loyalty and Conflict in the Civil War South, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.
The Black Soldier: 1492 to the Present, Houghton (Boston, MA), 2000.
(With Christine Lunardini) The Columbia Guide to American Women in the Nineteenth Century, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
(Editor and author of introduction) Fanny Kemble's Journals, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2000.
(Editor) A Poem of Her Own: Voices of American Women Yesterday and Today, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2003.
The African-American Experience, 1565–1877, Eastern National (Fort Washington, PA), 2004.
Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2004.
Hold the Flag High, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.
(Coeditor) Battle Scars: Gender and Sexuality in the Civil War, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Reminiscences of My Life in Camp: An African-American Woman's Civil War Memoir, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 2006.
Associate editor of American National Biography, Oxford University Press; series editor for "Viewpoints on American Culture," Oxford University Press. Contributor to numerous anthologies and professional journals.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A biography of Mary Todd Lincoln.
SIDELIGHTS: Historian Catherine Clinton has written on a wide range of topics in American history, from the changing role of women in the United States to the African American experience. She also writes for an audience that spans academia, adult fans of popular history, and young readers. Clinton once noted: "I spend a lot of time and energy on women's history. The field is growing, and respect for this important aspect of our past is increasing as well. I travel in the South whenever possible to renew my acquaintance with the region I study."
In the 1990s Clinton established herself as a specialist on the roles of American women in the nineteenth century, with emphasis on the South. Her work seeks to challenge stereotypes that have been perpetuated through fiction and racial prejudice, from that of the submissive female slave "Mammy" to that of the pampered, apolitical Southern "belle." In works such as Tara Revisited: Women, War and the Plantation Legend, Clinton demonstrates that Southern women exerted an enormous responsibility in plantation management both before and during the Civil War (1861–65). Furthermore, she explains that these women often resented their dependency on men. As for Southern women of color, Clinton proves that they resisted slavery in the antebellum years and quietly supported Union efforts during the war. In a New York Times Book Review assessment of Tara Revisited, Joan E. Cashan concluded: "Ms. Clinton has written a subtle essay on some extremely complex questions about collective memory. The 'mammy,' the 'belle' and the 'Lost Cause' have all proved to have an enduring national appeal, and, as she observes, they cry out for investigation."
Clinton's interests lie far afield of the standard, male-authored Victorian histories of the Civil War, and her research has led her to the oral histories, diaries, letters, and other original documents women of that era have left behind. One collection, titled Civil War Stories, presents essays based on these primary sources. Edward McCormack described the volume in a Library Journal review as "enlightening … enjoyable, useful, and informative." Clinton also delves into the study of Civil War-era women in The Other Civil War: American Women in the Nineteenth Century. In a 2000 Pif Magazine online review of the book, Abby Arnold called it "a tremendous achievement, as relevant today, when women's history courses are a part of the college curriculum, as it was when it was first published in 1984 and women's studies barely existed." Arnold went on to characterize The Other Civil War as "lively and energetic, crammed with valuable, important and entertaining information, and an excellent place to begin to understand the events and assumptions that still shape the lives of American women today."
One nineteenth-century woman who left behind a wealth of written observations was Fanny Kemble. A British stage actress whose diaries and published writings reveal a strong abolitionist bent based upon her own observations as a Georgia plantation mistress, Kemble is the subject of Clinton's biography Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars. The biography traces Kemble from her days as a matinee idol, through her disap-pointing marriage, to her emergence as a writer who influenced Britain's political stand on the American Civil War. Fanny Kemble's Journals, a volume of Kemble's writings edited by Clinton, was released simultaneously with the biography. In his New York Times Book Review essay on both works, David Walton wrote: "Read together, the biography and journals tell a remarkable story, the journals supplying color and atmosphere and Kemble's distinctive voice, the biography clarifying the domestic turmoil that shadowed each stage of their publication—the 'civil wars' of Clinton's title." A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that the distinguished Kemble "has long awaited a biographer that can match her," and that Clinton "is Kemble's equal—this biography is every bit as sharp, evocative and eloquent as Kemble's Journal."
Clinton, who left full-time teaching in 1994 to concentrate on writing, focuses on another famous woman in Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom. Tubman, a Maryland-born slave who was brutalized by her owner, ultimately escaped to the safety of the North, but she returned to the South to help guide scores of slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, Tubman tended to the wounded as a nurse and even acted as a spy, gathering information for the North from Southern slaves. In addition, she led a raid that helped free seven hundred slaves. Called the "Black Joan of Arc" and "General Tubman," she was a major force in abolitionist history, but her efforts were not recognized by the U.S. government during her lifetime. Clinton details the life story of this amazing woman, and the author's "expertise in writing Civil War history is readily evident in discussions of Tubman's role as a scout, spy, and indispensable leader in the June 1863 Combahee River (South Carolina) Raid," according to Wilma King, writing in the Journal of Southern History. Adele Logan Alexander, writing in the Woman's Review of Books, found Clinton's biography of Tubman "the most readable" of several that were published at about the same time.
Clinton has also edited Southern Families at War: Loyalty and Conflict in the Civil War South, a series of twelve essays analyzing the impact of the war on southern families. In a review for the Journal of Southern History, Angela Boswell commented that Southern Families at War "provides a variety of interesting new interpretations based on impressive research into families and family structures during the Civil War." Jean A. Stuntz, reviewing the same volume in Teaching History, noted that, as "each essay is short and well-grounded in primary sources, this book could easily be used in graduate or undergraduate courses on the Civil War and Reconstruction, women's and gender studies."
Clinton's Hold the Flag High is a more popular approach to narrative history, focusing on Sergeant William H. Carney, who served in an African American regiment during the Civil War. Carney rallied his men during the 1863 battle of Fort Wagner by taking the flag from a mortally wounded comrade and waving it under fire and while wounded. Captured in a photograph of the time, the image became an icon of black efforts in the Civil War. Susan P. Bloom of Horn Book called Clinton's book a "rousing story," and a "stirring chapter in American history." Likewise, Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, writing in the School Library Journal, found the book "an excellent resource to humanize textbook studies of the Civil War."
Clinton has also edited two works of verse for younger readers aimed at introducing them to poetic voices of gender and ethnicity. I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry features the works of twenty-five different poets, from the early years of American settlement through the Harlem Renaissance and on to more contemporary poets such as Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, and Amiri Baraka. Clinton accompanies each poetry selection with a brief biographical essay on its author. Reviewing the collection in the School Library Journal, Nina Lindsay concluded it was an "excellent survey." Poetry is also the focus of Clinton's 2003 volume A Poem of Her Own: Voices of American Women Yesterday and Today. This collection follows a format similar to that of I, Too, Sing America, this time focusing on twenty-five female poets. The subjects range from early writers such as Anne Bradstreet to voices of the twentieth century, including Gertrude Stein and Marianne Moore, and on to contemporaries, including Naomi Shihab Nye and Sandra Cisneros. Again, short biographical notes accompany each entry, along with representative poems. Lindsay, again writing in the School Library Journal, considered Clinton's survey an "excellent choice for an introduction to the subject." Another reviewer for School Library Journal found the same work a "rich, useful collection."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic, February, 1983, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of The Plantation Mistress: Woman's World in the Old South, p. 105.
Booklist, November 15, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Voices, p. 578; January 1, 2000, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Scholastic Encyclopedia of the Civil War, p. 908; September 15, 2000, Gilbert Taylor, review of Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars, p. 213, and Carolyn Phelan, review of The Black Soldier: 1492 to the Present, p. 233.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1998, review of I, Too, Sing America, p. 127; October, 2000, review of The Black Soldier, p. 56.
Choice, December, 2000, T. McDevitt, review of The Columbia Guide to American Women in the Nineteenth Century, p. 573.
Historian, spring, 2001, Bruce Clayton, review of Taking off the White Gloves: Southern Women and Women Historians, p. 648.
Horn Book, July-August, 2005, Susan P. Bloom, review of Hold the Flag High, p. 483.
Journal of Southern History, May, 1997, Stephanie Cole, review of Tara Revisited: Women, War and the Plantation Legend, p. 405; February, 2003, Angela Boswell, review of Southern Families at War: Loyalty and Conflict in the Civil War South, p. 184; August, 2005, Wilma King, review of Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom, p. 692.
Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2000, review of Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars, pp. 852-853.
Library Journal, November 15, 1982, review of The Plantation Mistress, p. 2170; May 1, 1991, Cindy Faries, review of Portraits of American Women, p. 89; September 15, 1998, Edward McCormack, review of Civil War Stories, p. 92; July, 2000, Theresa McDevitt, review of Southern Families at War, p. 116; August, 2000, Randall M. Miller, review of Fanny Kemble's Civil War, p. 124.
New Leader, November, 2000, Hope Hale Davis, review of Fanny Kemble's Journals and Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars, p. 48.
New Yorker, June 19, 1995, review of Tara Revisited, p. 96; October 9, 2000, review of Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars, p. 91.
New York Times Book Review, May 7, 1995, Joan E. Cashan, "The War between the Women," review of Tara Revisited, p. 37; September 10, 2000, David Walton, "Fearless Fanny."
Publishers Weekly, September 14, 1992, review of Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War, p. 120; November 9, 1998, review of I, Too, Sing America, p. 74; July 10, 2000, review of Fanny Kemble's Civil Wars, p. 51.
School Library Journal, October, 1995, Barbara Hawkins, review of Tara Revisited, p. 168; May, 2000, Peg Glisson, review of The Scholastic Encyclopedia of the Civil War, p. 85; October, 2000, Daniel Mungai, review of The Black Soldier, p. 180; May, 2003, Nina Lindsay, review of A Poem of Her Own: Voices of American Women Yesterday and Today, p. 164; April, 2004, review of A Poem of Her Own, p. S63; April, 2005, Nina Lindsay, review of I, Too, Sing America, p. 56; July, 2005, Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, review of Hold the Flag High, p. 8.
Teaching History, spring, 2002, Jean A. Stuntz, review of Southern Families at War, p. 50.
Washington Post, January 12, 1983.
Women's Review of Books, May, 2004, Adele Logan Alexander, "Sojourner Tubman and Harriet Truth," review of Harriet Tubman, p. 4.
Catherine Clinton Home Page, http://www.catherineclinton.com (November 12, 2005).
Pif Magazine, http://www.pifmagazine.com/ (September 2, 2000), Abby Arnold, review of The Other Civil War: American Women in the Nineteenth Century.