United Daughters of The Confederacy

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UNITED DAUGHTERS OF THE CONFEDERACY. The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), an organization of southern white women committed to honoring Confederate soldiers and preserving the South's view of its past, was founded in 1894. It grew rapidly, drawing its membership from among women who could establish their own role during the Civil War or their kinship with a Confederate soldier who had served honorably. By World War I, the UDC boasted a membership of nearly 100,000. During that period of growth, the UDC became central to the South's celebration of the Confederacy and to the development of the South's and, to a lesser extent, the nation's interpretation of the Civil War.

UDC members honored and cared for Confederate veterans, provided relief for many women of the 1860s, and, perhaps most importantly, sought to preserve the Confederate heritage. It erected many of the Confederate monuments that dot the southern landscape, sponsored an organization of younger descendants of Confederate veterans, the Children of the Confederacy, and lobbied to ensure that schools used only textbooks that had a prosouthern interpretation. In those books and throughout society, the UDC insisted on the honor of the Confederate soldiers and the righteousness of their cause, celebrated the Old South, and in later years criticized Reconstruction as a time of horror and degradation in the South—historical interpretations that subtly reinforced white supremacy.

Even as they fought to preserve the past, the women of the UDC expanded the public role of women while never abandoning traditional notions of femininity. Some members of the UDC participated in other women's organizations and reform activities; they even supported the adoption of women's suffrage. Others in the UDC, perhaps a majority of its members, opposed giving women the vote. After 1920 the reform activities of its members declined.

The UDC continued most of its other efforts, although it increasingly tried to balance loyalty to the memory of the Confederacy with the promotion of American patriotism. Nevertheless, at the end of the twentieth century it still honored the Confederacy and its soldiers, promoted a conservative view of history, and provided relief for needy women and scholarships for Confederate descendants. Its membership declined to under 23,000 (in 1996), and the organization became more controversial. In 1993 the United States Senate refused to renew a patent for the UDC's insignia, objecting that the Confederate flag that appeared on it was a symbol of racism.


Cox, Karen L. "Women, the Lost Cause, and the New South: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Transmission of Confederate Culture, 1894–1919." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern Mississippi, 1997.

Foster, Gaines M. Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of the New South, 1865–1913. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Poppenheim, Mary B., et al. The History of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. 3 vols. Raleigh, N.C.: Edwards and Broughton, 1956–1988.

Gaines M.Foster

See alsoUnited Confederate Veterans .

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United Daughters of The Confederacy