Events

Celebrating Recent Work by Stephanie McCurry

February 20, 2020
6:15 PM

Location: 

Heyman Center Common Room

Event Type: 

New Books in the Arts & Sciences:

Celebrating Recent Work by Stephanie McCurry

Thursday, February 20, 2020  6:15pm

Heyman Center Common Room (directions)

Women’s War: Fighting and Surviving the American Civil War

Please note: This event is free and open to the public, but photo ID is required to enter the building. First come, first seated.

We think of war as a man’s world, but women have always played active roles in times of violence and been left to pick up the pieces in societies decimated by war. In this groundbreaking reconsideration of the Civil War, the award-winning author of Confederate Reckoning invites us to see America’s bloodiest conflict not just as pitting brother against brother but as a woman’s war.

When the war broke out, Union soldiers assumed Confederate women would be innocent noncombatants. Experience soon challenged this simplistic belief. Through a trio of dramatic stories, Stephanie McCurry reveals the vital and sometimes confounding roles women played on and off the battlefield. We meet Clara Judd, a Confederate spy whose imprisonment for treason sparked heated controversy, defying the principle of civilian immunity and leading to lasting changes in the laws of war. Hundreds of thousands of enslaved women escaped across Union lines, upending emancipation policies that extended only to enslaved men. The Union’s response was to classify fugitive black women as “soldiers’ wives,” regardless of whether they were married—offering them some protection but placing new obstacles on their path to freedom. In the war’s aftermath, the Confederate grande dame Gertrude Thomas wrestled with her loss of status and of her former slaves. War, emancipation, and economic devastation affected her family intimately, and through her life McCurry helps us see how fundamental the changes of Reconstruction were.

Women’s War dismantles the long-standing fiction that women are outside of war and shows that they were indispensable actors in the Civil War, as they have been—and continue to be—in all wars.


About the Author:

Stephanie McCurry, Professor of History, specializes in the nineteenth century United States, the American South, the American Civil War and the history of women and gender.  Current interests include the history of the United States in the immediate post-Civil War moment, the history of postwar societies and processes of reconstruction in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the matter of marriage, politics and the state in the modern period.

About the Speakers:

Drew Gilpin Faust is President Emeritus and the Arthur Kingsley Porter University Professor at Harvard University. Faust served as the 28th president of Harvard University from July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2018.  She was Harvard’s first female president, and the first Harvard president without a Harvard degree. 

She is the author of six books, including "Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War" (University of North Carolina Press, 1996), for which she won the Francis Parkman Prize in 1997. Her most recent book, "This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War" (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), looks at the impact of the Civil War's enormous death toll on the lives of 19th-century Americans. It won the Bancroft Prize in 2009, was a finalist for both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize, and was named by The New York Times one of the "10 Best Books of 2008."  "This Republic of Suffering" is the basis for a 2012 Emmy-nominated episode of the PBS American Experience documentaries titled "Death and the Civil War," directed by Ric Burns. She is a contributing writer at The Atlantic.

Camille Robcis specializes in modern European intellectual history, with a focus on nineteenth- and twentieth-century France. Her interests have circled around three issues: the historical construction of norms, the intellectual production of knowledge, and the articulation of universalism and difference in modern French history. Prior to coming to Columbia, she taught at Cornell for ten years.

Robcis is the author of The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in France which was published by Cornell University Press and which won the 2013 Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize. It examines how and why French judges and legislators turned to structuralism – and more specifically, to some of the most difficult and abstract concepts of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Jacques Lacan – to reassert the centrality of the heterosexual family in political debates around bioethics, same-sex unions, single-parent households, family names, surrogacy, and adoption.

Jeremy K. Kessler, Professor of Law, is a legal historian whose scholarship focuses on First Amendment law, administrative law, and constitutional law generally. He joined the Columbia Law School faculty in 2015 and is co-director of Columbia University's 20th Century Politics and Society Workshop and Columbia Law School's Legal History Workshop. He also serves on the ABA’s Committee on the History of Administrative Law.

Kessler’s forthcoming book, Fortress of Liberty: The Rise and Fall of the Draft and the Remaking of American Law, Harvard, explores how the contested development of the military draft transformed the relationship between civil liberties law and the American administrative state. His articles on First Amendment law, administrative law, constitutional theory, and American legal history have appeared in the Harvard Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, the University of Chicago Law Review, and the Texas Law Review, among other publications. Kessler also writes about law and history for non-academic publications, including The New Republic, n+1, The Boston Review, and Jacobin.

Panel Chair:

Christopher L. Brown, professor, specializes in the history of eighteenth century Britain, the early modern British Empire, and the comparative history of slavery and abolition, with secondary interests in the age of revolutions and the history of the Atlantic world. He is now at work on two projects, one on British experience along the West African coast in the era of the Atlantic slave trade, and a second on the decline and fall of the British Planter class in the era of abolition and emancipation.


Sponsors:

Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), The Office of the Divisional Dean of Social Sciences, The Heyman Center for the Humanities

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