Department Chair

Andrew D. Nicholls, Ph.D., Professor of History

Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

History, M.A.


History and Social Studies Education Department


Jean E. Richardson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History

Department Home page

First Reader

Michael S. Pendleton, Ph. D., Associate Professor of Political Science


During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, American women were subjected to restrictive societal expectations, providing them with a well-defined identity and role within the male-dominated culture. For elite southern women, more so than their northern sisters, this identity became integral to southern patriarchy and tradition. As the United States succumbed to sectional tension and eventually civil war, elite white southerners found their way of life threatened as the delicate web of gender, race, and class relations that the Old South was based upon began to crumble. Despite their repressed status in southern society, most elite southern women chose to support the patriarchal system that had long controlled their lives, and were as devoted to the Confederate cause as elite southern men. For some women this support manifested as domestic novels, written by elite, white southern women for elite, white southern women. These novels, all published during the nineteenth century, heralded the traditions of the Old South. They pushed for continued support of the southern way of life, suggesting the best way for elite southern women do this was by becoming more virtuous, better educated, and less frivolous wives and mothers.