New Orleans Beauties and the “Beast”

February 7th, 2011 by Leah Wood Jewett

Before and after Butler’s proclamation. July 12, 1862, Harper’s Weekly.

Were disobedient Southern beauties tamed by the pen of a Union “beast?”  Or did General Benjamin Butler’s “Woman Order” serve only to fuel the flames of defiance in occupied New Orleans? In association with the exhibition “The Dear Ones at Home: Women’s Letters and Diaries of the Civil War Era,” and as part of Women’s History Month, LSU Assistant Professor of History Alecia P. Long will present “(Mis)Remembering General Order No. 28: Benjamin Butler, the Woman Order, and Historical Memory” at noon on March 2, 2011 in the Hill Memorial Library lecture hall. Attendees are invited to bring their own lunch.  Light refreshments will be provided.

Examining  the stark contrast between historical memory of Butler’s order and the reality of its enforcement and reactions from the New Orleans citizenry, Long will also outline the general’s efforts to shape his legacy and their effect on public perception of his success. 

Long recently co-edited a collection of essays with Lee Ann Whites titled Occupied Women:  Gender, Military Occupation and the American Civil War (LSU Press, 2009), which includes her research on Butler’s proclamation. Her first book, The Great Southern Babylon: Sex, Race, and Respectability in New Orleans, 1865-1920, won the Julia Cherry Spruill Publication Prize, presented by the Southern Association of Women Historians, in 2005.

Marking the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, which started April 12, 1861, the exhibition “The Dear Ones at Home” explores the variety of women’s experiences during the war, and its impact on their worlds. Drawing on the rich manuscript holdings of the Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, the exhibition reveals what life was like on the home front, as women as well as men mobilized for the war. The exhibition displays photographs from the collections, including a daguerreotype of Varina Howell Davis, as well as illustrations from Harper’s Weekly.

Both the exhibition and lecture are free and open to the public.

For more information, visit the Special Collections’ Web site at www.lib.lsu.edu/special.  

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