Date Thesis Awarded
Bachelors of Arts (BA)
James P. Whittenburg
Katherine K. Preston
As the First Lady of the Confederacy, Varina Davis was expected by her peers to fill myriad social, political and cultural roles. Forced into the political spotlight in Civil War Richmond during a time of extreme social and cultural flux, Varina received both praise and critique from her female peers as she struggled to meet their divergent and seemingly impossible expectations and to serve as a paradigm for the elite women of her political sphere. Primary research into the writings of Varina's female peers about the First Lady's conduct in her prestigious political and social role reveals that Varina's complex, controversial and rather confounded character actually was a much more realistic embodiment of the complexitities of elite southern female society at that time. In life and in death, Varina has remained a controversial figure in history memory, and historiography. However, by analyzing her through the multiple lenses of her female peers, we are better able to understand Varina's "confounded" nature and reputation, and thus glean a clearer image of her role, and the roles of her peers, in southern society, history and memory.
Whitehead, Ashley, ""Though my people slay me, yet I will trust in them:" Varina Davis and the Elusive Paradigm of the Politically Elite Confederate Woman" (2008). Undergraduate Honors Theses. Paper 835.
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