Civil War Wives, The Lives & Times of Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis & Julia Dent Grant by Carol Berkin

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Published by Alfred A. Knopf September 2009/384 pages/Non-fiction/Civil War/ 19th Century/History

Three women that each had varying differences in personality, lifestyle, political and religious beliefs, and each with their own stance on slavery. The common denominator that each of them had is that they were apart of the history of the Civil War.
Angelina Grimke Weld was born to a wealthy South Carolina plantation owner. Her family was well-known, political, educated. Yet, as a young woman she became involved with the crusade to abolish slavery. For a time she left her Episcopal Church and became a Quaker. She moved away from her plantation home and lived independently during an age when few women were able to do so. Her family resented her chastisement of them in wanting them to believe as she did about human equality. Her life's mission was not only for the abolishment of slavery, but she was an advocate of women equality.
Varina Howell Davis was the wife of Jefferson Davis the Confederate President. Varina was a beautiful woman that was independent in spirit. Her husband was staunchly opposed to any outspoken view from her and he expected obedience. She was devoted to him during his imprisonment and worked tirelessly to have him released. Their marriage was long lasting, but not a pleasant arrangement.
Julia Dent Grant was born in Missouri to a family that was close-nit. Her father was especially devoted to her. Julia and Ulysses marriage was not only enduring but a loving court ship for the rest of their lives. They were devoted to each other and were friends and confidantes. I found it interesting that Julia grew up with slaves in her home, she had a slave that helped her with her children; yet her husband was General of the Northern army during the Civil War.

I was not quite sure I liked this book during the first chapter. The person Angelina Grimke Weld is rather dry. I appreciated her views and work in abolishing slavery, but she was like bland toast to me. I'm glad the author started with her life story first. The next 2 characters on Varina Howell Davis and Julia Dent Grant were more colorful in personality and lives. I especially appreciated knowing that Julia and Ulysses Grant enjoyed a happy marriage.
I felt the book was fully researched, and the author has a background that explains full well why she knows her stuff. Carol Berkin has a lengthy education in history, including a PHD.
Civil War Wives to me gave a well-rounded picture of 3 women of varying backgrounds that gave glimpses of women during the Civil War. Most books it seems are about the men of the Civil War. 

Blissful Reading!


  1. Seems like it would be interesting to read more about the lives of women during the Civil War. Your review will be featured on War Through the Generations on Aug. 2.


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