Date of Award
In the American Civil War, described by Christian McWhirter as a war fought to music, popular song played a significant role in the expression and processing of wartime emotions and ideologies. Civil War songs with lyrics written by women show feminine strength in tragedy, challenges due to societal expectations, and the day to day difficulties of wartime on the homefront. One concept that unites these themes is that of Republican Motherhood, an ideology developed in the Revolutionary War, but which continued to be prevalent throughout the 19th Century. This paradigm places female experience in the context of duty, patriotism, and sentimentality.
In order to better understand this concept, a list of Civil War songs with female lyricists was compiled using three notable databases of American popular music: The Library of Congress Civil War Sheet Music Collection, the Lester S. Levy Sheet Music Collection from Johns Hopkins University, and the Edison Collection of American Sheet Music. The resulting compilation numbers at nearly 130 songs. The exploration of these songs expands our understanding of the evocation of Republican Motherhood and its place in the Civil War. The ability to deny the extreme emotions of wartime loss, as required by the idea of patriotic motherhood, and the strength needed to perform wartime activities defy the stereotypes in which women were placed before the war. Through the expression and overlap of themes such as patriotism, female roles, and sentimentality, the lyrics of songs written by women show the ways in which women defied gender expectations both by pushing against the exigencies of patriotic motherhood and by following its precepts. A closer analysis of these lyrics and the music accompanying them expands our definition and understanding of Republican Motherhood both as a larger ideology and an aspect of society during the American Civil War.
Patchett, Gianna, ""Let Thy Conscience Act Her Part": Republican Motherhood in Civil War Popular Song" (2021). Undergraduate Honors Capstone Projects. 696.
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Departmental Honors Advisor