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Overview

Beyond the popular myths of spirited young women and iron-willed matrons of the 19th century South were women of substance and diversity. Many were prolific diarists, letter writers, and record keepers of deep insight and keen observation. In this important microfilm publication from UPA, fascinating collections of their writings shed light on the world they knew. Courtship, slavery, education, child rearing, marriage, and religion are common threads running through the thoughts of many disparate women documented in the series. The Clement Claiborne Clay papers and Washington M. Smith papers compose the majority of Series H, Part 2, while smaller collections consist of a few hundred documents or a single diary. Following the death of her husband, Virginia Tunstall Clay faced the enormous task of managing her family and financial situation. Virginia Clay, already well known because of her famous husband, was thrust into the public sphere as the defeated Southerners eulogized and remembered the contribution of Clement Claiborne Clay. Virginia Clay_s increased public role soon expanded as she became a leader in the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). Susan P. Smith, the widow of Washington M. Smith, also faced the challenges of life alone following the loss of her husband. The family was comparatively well off for the time period, and few financial issues arose during the time period represented at the beginning of the collection. But after her children began their adult lives, the financial problems of the family began to mount. Smith began a long-running quarrel with one son, Oscar E. Smith, concerning his brother who constantly faced economic ruin. In both the Smith and Clay collections, the central challenge of daily life is the management of the household, more specifically the financial hardships faced by women and families after the Civil War. The smaller remaining collections provide snapshots of a variety of women during and after Reconstruction. The combination of these collections affords a broad context of the era while simultaneously offering great detail in a variety of manuscripts.

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