Education: University of California, Irvine, M.A., Ph.D.
Office—Department of History, 101 Read Hall, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211. E-mail—[email protected]
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA, professor; University of Missouri, Columbia, professor of history, 1989—.
(Contributor and editor, with Mary C. Neth and Gary R. Kremer) Women in Missouri History: In Search of Power and Influence, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 2004.
Contributor to books, including The Race and Gender Politics of Confederate Memorialization in the Civil War in Popular Culture, edited by Alice Fahs and Joan Wahs, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 2004.
LeeAnn Whites is a historian who focuses on gender relations. In her first book, The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender: Augusta, Georgia, 1860-1890, she discusses the evolution of the "steel magnolia" archetype, formed in the midst of the Civil War when upper-class white women were left in charge of running large households and managing the slaves while their husbands went off to battle. After the South's defeat, many of these women wanted their husbands to resume their roles as protectors of the family and their livelihoods, and they had little interest in asserting their own power or independence. These women equated independence with poverty, which was the fate of less-well-off white Southern women during the Civil War.
Women's concerns were greatly enhanced by the emancipation of the slaves and the South's defeat, both of which eroded their husbands' power in the household and led to a major redefinition of both masculine and feminine roles. Men reasserted their gender roles by assuming responsibility for their women. Women attempted to hold on to their familiar gender roles by becoming active in memorial associations such as the Confederate Survivors Association and other such efforts known as the Lost Cause, insisting that their men had fought valiantly to preserve their honor and their homes. While "Whites is persuasive on many fronts," wrote Stephanie McCurry in the Women's Review of Books, McCurry believed that Whites incorrectly states that white men retreated from the political arena. Anne M. Valk, writing in Southern Cultures, summarized that Whites's book shows how "despite transformations in the parameters of women's and men's roles, a social order based on white male domination of women and freedpeople persisted through the transition from the Old South to the New South." Leslie Gene Hunter, writing in the Journal of Negro History, lamented the lack of analysis of violence and lynchings against blacks, but concluded that "the book is well written, deals with a neglected aspect of Civil War history, and deserves to become a standard work on the subject."
Gender Matters: Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Making of the New South, is a collection of eleven essays by Whites, some of which have been previously published. They explore how gender relations impacted race and class and influenced the cessation of the South, politics, and the formation of the Ku Klux Klan. In a chapter about Georgia's Rebecca Latimer Felton, the first female U.S. Senator, Whites writes about the alliance Felton secured between upper-class and lower-class whites by appealing to their shared bonds of motherhood and Confederate defeat and by advocating repeal of nearly all rights that had been granted to black men. Another chapter details the labor unrest in Augusta's cotton mills and correlates it to men's shifting gender roles. The cultural milieu of Missouri is a major topic for Whites, because it had women's groups that supported the Union and the Confederacy, which had differing views on gender roles for women.
Writing in the Journal of Social History, Jane Turner Censer complimented Whites's oeuvre. "From her early essays on labor to more recent ones on women's roles in commemorative exercises, Whites has consis- tently produced excellent, provocative pieces that argue the importance of gendered history," Censer wrote.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, February, 1998, review of The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender: Augusta, Georgia, 1860-1890, p. 280.
Canadian Journal of History, December, 1996, Patricia Morton, review of The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender, p. 473.
Choice, February, 2005, J.L. Gall, review of Women in Missouri History: In Search of Power and Influence, p. 1084; March, 2006, T.F. Armstrong, review of Gender Matters: Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Making of the New South, p. 1291.
Journal of American History, March, 1997, George C. Rable, review of The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender, p. 1410; September, 2006, Joan E. Cashin, review of Gender Matters, p. 540.
Journal of Negro History, summer, 1998, Leslie Gene Hunter, review of The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender, p. 201.
Journal of Social History, fall, 2007, Jane Turner Censer, review of Gender Matters, p. 210.
Journal of Southern History, May, 1997, Kent Anderson Leslie, review of The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender, p. 407; February, 2006, Antoinette van Zelm, review of Women in Missouri History, p. 151; November, 2006, Caroline E. Janney, review of Gender Matters, p. 946.
Signs, winter, 2007, Lyde Cullen Sizer, review of Gender Matters, p. 555.
Southern Cultures, winter, 1998, Anne M. Valk, review of The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender, p. 86.
Women's Review of Books, March, 1977, Stephanie McCurry, review of The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender, p. 13.