Gender and the US South Term Paper

Written April 20, 2020

Important Note

I have had a few instances of my term papers reaching JSTOR and and other scholarly sites, meaning that there are more than likely students finding these posts and using them as references on their own term papers. While I love getting views on my website, please remember that this term paper along with my other term papers are that of an undergraduate studying English. You are more than welcome to use sources found in my term papers but PLEASE do not use my papers as a source for your own writing. Thank you.

This Term Paper

This particular term paper required a few things of students. The most important part was finding four chapters from South Carolina Women to write about. We were told to write about 1 to 1.5 pages on each of the four chapters and to focus on a few specific aspect. One aspect was identifying who the chapter was about, why were they important, and why she was included in the collection. Th second thing to mention was how that chapter connected to our course units. Our course units included gaining the ability to identify, describe, and explain some of the cultural values, norms, ideas, and stereotypes in the US South, having the ability to analyze cultural values, norms, ideas, and stereotypes in the US South and explain the influences that these elements have had on ideas about gender, being able to identify and describe historical time periods and events that had important influences on ideas about gender, race, class and sexuality in the South, and have the ability to evaluate ways that ideas about gender in the South are similar, dissimilar, and interrelated to ideas about gender in the Global South. The last thing for the four chapters was linking it back to a prior text we had read during the semester, then have a final page dedicated to reflecting on the semester.

            The final reading for the course was South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times—Volume 1 by Marjorie Julian Spruill. This book contained a collection of works that detailed many different ideas that relate to place, indigenous people, slavery, and the Civil War. This particular book seems to wrap up an entire semesters’ worth into a neat but complicated package. There are a few chapters that stood out specifically that really encapsulate the goals of this course.

            First, there’s the chapter that starts on page 26 titled “Judith Giton: From Southern France to the Carolina Lowcountry” that reminds me of the discussion of place. Place isn’t just a physical landmark but it’s something that ties people together and can create a community. Place is something that gives meaning and can be a point in time. Place allows studies to be performed on how different ideas affected groups of people. Place manifests in this chapter through a woman named Judith Giton Manigault.

            Judith was a French Huguenot woman who traveled across the Atlantic to marry into “one of the most prestigious Carolina dynasties” (Ruymbeke, 26). The chapter described how 2,500 Huguenots fled from Europe to America, where North Carolina specifically was one of the main places they would go (Ruymbeke, 27). She was forced to leave the place she called home in order to find some sort of safety but was one of the few letters found that didn’t describe the place she fled to as paradise.

            Judith’s letters to her brother are important because they shed light on a side of France during the period that was relatively unknown. She details how soldiers were stationed in her home place and that her and her family suffered the torment of not bending to Catholicism as King Charles had desired of the Huguenots. She discussed how alienated she was from the Catholic community that surrounded her. It was included more than likely to show a different side to a Carolina woman, which is one that was not originally from that place but rather traveled to it.

            This relates to Unit 1, which is about place, because it details a woman striving to find her “place” in the world. Judith left what was familiar to her because it was not safe for her and, after the death of her artisan husband, no longer had any reason to stay. She married a man in South Carolina in order to overcome adversity and create a new place for herself and her family. Judith’s history gives people today an inside look on how her gender and nationality played a part on her finding a place to call home.

            While reading this chapter, I instantly thought about A Mercy by Toni Morrison. In that text, Florens is sent away to a new place in an attempt to protect her from the life her mother had faced. Florens was someone who had to create a place where she was moved to and had to create a community herself through the other characters around her. Her doing this shows not only insight into the character but gives another example of how being a woman in the South plays a part in place. Florens had to physically and emotionally create her own place.

            The next chapter I feel is relevant is on page 127 and is titled “Dolly, Lavinia, Maria, and Susan: Enslaved Women in Antebellum South Carolina.” This chapter discusses four women that were slaves in the South. In regards to specifically Dolly, it was interesting to read how slaves would “marry” other slaves even if it wasn’t legally or formally recognized. However, it showed how slaves would “marry” each other out of “companionship, attraction, love and affection” rather than for social status or financial reasons (West, 129). Marriages could make slaves happier and work harder yet owners had no legal obligation to keep married slaves on the same plantation so they were often separated.

            Then there’s Lavinia, who personally wrote a letter that was found by historians which important to note since having that kind of knowledge during the period was illegal. Slave owners took away so much knowledge from slaves in order to have more control over them and make them feel like a lesser human, but Lavinia not only learned how to read and write but wrote directly to her mistress. This letter gives way to a new idea, which is that there may have been actual bonds that were formed between whites and blacks based on gender.

            All four of these women are important to the collection of work found in this book because they all reveal something new about slavery during the time period. For some owners, there was actually compassion to be found. There was a larger sense of community within slaves that most may have realized. These women showed the different types of relationships between the white wives of their slave owners and female slaves.

            Something I began to think about was Joining Places by Anthony E. Kaye as it discusses how slaves would create communities within themselves and how they viewed marriage. This book from earlier in the semester popped into my head specifically when the chapter began discussing marriage between slaves. Even if it wasn’t legally recognized, they would still “marry” and Joining Places discusses the differences slaves saw between marriage and cohabitation. It also mentions how slaves would marry other slaves that weren’t owned by the same people, which is something that occurred in Dolly’s case.

            Then there’s the chapter on page 109 titled “Rebecca Brewton Motte: Revolutionary South Carolinian” which pertained quite a bit to the Civil War here in the United States. The chapter specifically references a woman named Rebecca Brewton Motte that made a great deal of sacrifices during the period. She had lost her husband and brother to the war and eventually ended up setting her house on fire.

            Rebecca had to manage three young daughter, everything her deceased husband left behind, the dangers of the Lowcountry that included illnesses, and general uncertainty. Rebecca was forced to care for other refugees in her home while trying to keep her property from being taken by enemy troops. Upon hearing about siege lines being planned to attack the fort her home was inside of, Rebecca actually agreed to allow troops to set her house on fire for “the good of her country” (Hesley, 121).

            This chapter is significant because it shows the unshown side of the Civil War that was how the women were affected. These Southern women had so many responsibilities to uphold yet still had limited rights from a legal standpoint. They were fearless and fought hard from the sidelines as Rebecca shows readers. Her patriotism may not be told in most history books but it’s an important story nonetheless and was therefore included in this collection.

            A prior text that I thought of while reading this chapter was, unsurprisingly, The Unvanquished by William Faulkner. This book revolves around war, even if it isn’t necessarily the Civil War. Despite it being a different war, The Unvanquished describes the hardships characters had to face during the era. I had specifically begun to think about the female characters such as Drusilla and Granny and their hardships they faced as women in the war.

Drusilla disregarded what was expected of her as a woman in order to better fight in the war, which I think is something that could be compared to Rebecca in a sense. Rebecca still upheld her social status and responsibilities as a Southern woman but took on some unusual roles like Drusilla did. Rebecca had to take on more once her husband had died and Drusilla did that and more. While I realize the similarities are a bit slim, it’s still what my mind first went to while reading.

The last chapter that I read was on page 184 and titled “Elizabeth Allston Pringle: A Woman Rice Planter,” which focuses on a woman named Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s “world was circumscribed by a web of race, class, and gender that can be understood only within the context of patriarchal society” which is why Elizabeth’s story is an unusual one (Joyner, 185). For starters, she tried to emulate her father over her mother which was not typical of the period. When her father passed, it was her mothers’ responsibility to keep up with the rice plantation called Chicora Wood.

Elizabeth married a rice plantation owner and ended up purchasing the property after his death. With the death of her husband and then the death of her mother, a childless and widowed Elizabeth took up the more masculine responsibilities of keeping up with both plantations and tending to the rice herself. Elizabeth “was doing what had been considered a man’s work on the plantation” alongside her tenants (Joyner, 199).

I thought that this chapter was relevant to the ideas of indigenous people as soon as I saw it was called Chicora since Chicora was the name of a Native American kingdom in South Carolina. There’s also the scene on pages 191 and 192 where Elizabeth’s mother overtakes a group of slaves using only kindness in order to get what she wanted. This was something I internally compared to the indigenous people as women were much more respected in that community than in this patriarchal society.

Knowing all of that, I noticed my mind wander back to Cherokee Women by Theda Perdue. I thought about how indigenous women of that period had more masculine responsibility such as the ones Elizabeth took on. Their crops played a huge part in their lives such as the rice played a huge part in Elizabeth’s. There’s also chapter 3 called A Changing Way Of Life where the Cherokees had to endure massive changes to their society. Similarly, Elizabeth faced drastic changes to her own society when there were no more slaves to be owned.

It’s a relevant chapter to the collection due to the idea of a woman taking on so many roles throughout her life. It adds to the many unique challenges women could face during that period in the South and the different routes unique women took to overcome them. It also showed how the abolition of slavery changed people in the era and how plantations were affected by the sudden change.

After finishing the book and essentially finishing the course, there’s a lot of things I’ve found that I’m able to take with me. I realized that I had essentially known nothing prior to entering the course. Even as an English major, I wasn’t aware of what place truly meant outside of the standard dictionary definition. I changed a lot of my ideas on stereotypes in the South and how gender differs based on place. The biggest thing I learned was how many people through all of history, even in fiction, that have fought the norms in the South to provide a better life for themselves, their families, and for future generations.

The novel that impacted me the most was Beloved. I had read Beloved in a different course but it never ceases to impact me greatly. Morrison does a great job at really pulling her reader into her stories, even if they’ve never felt the same discrimination as her characters. The relationship between Sethe and Beloved always gets me because it symbolizes typical ideas that motherhood throws at women such as her water breaking and the mother getting weaker as her child gets stronger. It’s also impactful to read how gender and race played such a large role during that time, even if the story was fictional. It always feels so real to me every time I read it.

All of these chapters in South Carolina Women really tie into Unit 1, which revolved around cultural values, norms, ideas, and stereotypes. All of these women faced these obstacles and dealt with them all in their own ways. Southern women were expected to be wives and mothers and most of them didn’t end up doing that norm yet were still successful in their own ways. Women were stereotyped to be indoors and housekeepers yet slave women were always working, Elizabeth worked on her own plantation, and Judith fled her country on a grueling journey to seek paradise.

Everything within this course was engaging, interesting, and enlightening especially in terms of the course objectives. I knew nothing about the South, indigenous people of the South, and how differently race played a part in the South prior. Each text left a unique impact on me and opened my eyes to even modern challenges and stereotypes within the South. It has been an interesting class that I have thoroughly enjoyed and I especially enjoyed South Carolina Women wrapping everything up in a tidy package.

Grade received: 100%

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