My book, Gendering Secession: White Women and Politics in South Carolina, 1859-1861, is under contract with Cambridge University Press's Studies on the American South series.
Gendering Secession examines elite white women on the eve of disunion and argues that their thoughts and voices are instrumental in understanding the political, economic, and social transitions of 1860. In tracing events from John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry in October 1859 to the battle of First Bull Run in July 1861, I argue that elite women were astute political spectators and analysts who hid their “improper” political consciousnesses through avenues gendered as feminine and therefore socially acceptable. As women increasingly preoccupied themselves with national events in their diaries and letters, they processed these changes through religious metaphor and prophecy, historical evocations of the past, and language borrowed from popular sentimental novels. Gendering Secession braids women’s history, Civil War studies, emotions history, literary studies and criticism, and political theory into a case study of the Palmetto State during a year that irreversibly changed the United States of America.
Washington Library Fellowship at Mt. Vernon
"Secession Through Washington's Eyes: The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association and the Rhetoric of Revolution on the Eve of the Civil War"
I am one of the 2021-2022 Fred W. Smith Washington Library Fellows. I will visit the archives at Mount Vernon for three months, researching how southern members of the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association struggled to reconcile their patriotism toward the American Revolution, Early Republic, and George Washington's legacy with their current desire to leave that same union. I will incorporate this research into my book, Gendering Secession, and an article on the topic.
Presidential Commission on University History, University of South Carolina
I served as the researcher on the Presidential Commission on University History, which was charged to "study and better understand the complex history of the University of South Carolina, including the contributions of marginalized and underrepresented people and/or groups whose voices have not typically been heard. As the researcher, I compiled a list of all named buildings on campus and their origins; detailed write-ups of select building names with complex histories; a lengthy list of potential new names for campus buildings; a suggested template for a university history website; and brief biographies of notable figures overlooked in UofSC's history. The full report can be found here. I am currently consulting for the Implementation Group in response to the report.
Though the university president has decided not to move forward with our suggestions for renaming, I will continue to find ways to tell the hard history of the University of South Carolina through digital and public history.
Civil War Women Nurses, Trauma, and the Senses
My next book project examines Civil War women nurses and the trauma they experienced in field and military hospitals. In reading numerous diaries and letters, I find that women slowly “benumb” their senses in order to productively serve their respective countries. In addition to numbing themselves to the smell, sight, sound, and touch of death, they additionally harden themselves emotionally and note with some frequency that they are no longer moved by death and gore. This research combines two exciting fields–sensory and emotions history–and further complicates our idea of homefront versus battlefield. I argue that women nurses were particularly unprepared for the horrors of war due to ideas of female propriety, but experienced traumatic events much like their male counterparts. They should not be omitted from current studies of war and trauma.