Silber, Nina 1959-
Silber, Nina 1959-
Born June 12, 1959, in New York, NY; daughter of Irwin (a writer) and Sylvia (a teacher) Silber; married Louis P. Hutchins (a historian), June 17, 1989; children: Benjamin S. Education: University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1981, M.A., 1985, Ph.D., 1989.
Home—Needham, MA. Office—Department of History, Boston University, 226 Bay State Rd., Boston, MA 02215. E-mail—[email protected]
Boston University, Boston, MA, began as assistant professor of history, became professor, 1990—, director of women's studies. Consultant to Valentine Museum.
American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Southern Historical Association.
Smithsonian fellow, 1987-89.
Landmarks of the Civil War, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2003.
Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.
(Editor, with Catherine Clinton) Battle Scars: Gender and Sexuality in the American Civil War, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2006.
Gender and the Sectional Conflict, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 2009.
Contributor to American Quarterly.
Writer, educator, and historian Nina Silber was born June 12, 1959, in New York City. She attended the University of California at Berkeley, where she earned her undergraduate degree as well as her master's degree and doctorate. Her main academic and research focus is the history of the United States between the middle of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, especially the Civil War and the period of Reconstruction. She is primarily interested in the culture and the history of women during that time, as well as society and politics. She serves on the faculty of Boston University, where she began as an assistant professor of history, working her way up to full professor, and where she has also been director of the women's studies program. In addition, she periodically acts as a consultant for period accuracy, and has worked on the organization of several videos and museum exhibitions. She is the author or editor of a number of books on the Civil War and on the roles of women of that time.
Silber served as editor, along with Catherine Clinton, of Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War. The book gathers eighteen essays written by a selection of academics and historians, all of which reflect on the Civil War and the makeup of the different individuals who played key roles in the battles and the progression of American society at that time. The works address questions of gender and opportunity during this period, as well as how roles and duties broke down across racial divides and those of class. As a whole, the essays raise a number of intriguing questions, such as what the divorce rates were during the Civil War and Restoration and what role women played as spies, basing much of the foundation of their questions on information gleaned from various diaries, letters, and court records. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly expressed some disappointment regarding the lack of a true conclusion in most of the essays, but noted that "an admirably comprehensive bibliography is obviously meant to stimulate further research."
In The Romance of Reunion: Northerners and the South, 1865-1900, Silber takes a look at the changing attitudes of the North toward the South during the end of the war and into Reconstruction. Starting at the battle of Appomattox, she depicts the reactions of the Northerners to their Southern counterparts, taking into consideration their previous culture and the ways in which the North had to change to allow the two halves of the nation to unite once more under common interests. Jay Freeman, writing for Booklist, dubbed the work "a fine work of social history."
Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War, which was published in 2005, addresses the roles of women in the American Civil War, focusing specifically on those women from Northern states who were in some way involved in the conflict. Although she does include the more familiar figures such as Clara Barton and Dorothea Dix, Silber's primary interest is in the unsung females, the women whose names are not known but who nevertheless were major contributors to the war effort. Silber delved into a wealth of primary material, including letters and journals, in order to get a clear picture of the lives lived by so many women during the war. Due to the absence of the men in their lives, who had gone off to fight, many women were forced to step into their shoes, taking on jobs and tasks that were unfamiliar, such as delivering the mail and serving as government workers. They also toiled in more traditional roles, as nurses, teachers, and in fund-raising efforts. Silber is careful to include the roles of black women as well, showing how they participated in a number of positions that kept society running while the men were away. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that "in this provocative, challenging work, Silber writes ordinary women onto the page and reshapes the boundaries of Civil War history." Booklist reviewer Margaret Flanagan found the book to be a "worthy contribution to the scholarship and popular culture of the Civil War."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 1993, Jay Freeman, review of The Romance of Reunion: Northerners and the South, 1865-1900, p. 736; April 1, 2005, Margaret Flanagan, review of Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War, p. 1340.
Publishers Weekly, September 14, 1992, review of Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War, p. 120; April 25, 2005, review of Daughters of the Union, p. 52.