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Aberration of MindSuicide and Suffering in the Civil War-Era South$
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Diane Miller Sommerville

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469643304

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469643304.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 24 May 2022

A Dark Doom to Dread

A Dark Doom to Dread

Women, Suicide, and Suffering on the Confederate Homefront

(p.49) Chapter 2 A Dark Doom to Dread
Aberration of Mind

Diane Miller Sommerville

University of North Carolina Press

Women on the Confederate homefront, living in a war zone, suffered psychologically. Socialized to believe in doctrines of paternalism, many women were ill-equipped and unaccustomed to new wartime roles household head that the absence of men required of them. Many southern white women found the added demands of war unbearable and too demanding, leading some to succumb to mental illness that sometimes led to institutionalization in insane asylums, and suicidal ideation or behavior. The most vulnerable women on the homefront were young mothers and widows who bore the heaviest burdens when their husbands were gone leaving them to care for families under trying circumstances. Also contributing to the psychological ailments of Confederate women were worries about male relatives on the battle front, fear of invading armies, scarcity, financial duress, deaths of loved ones, and management of slave labor. The war also exacerbated conditions of women with postpartum disorders rendering them vulnerable to institutionalization or suicidal behavior. The chapter also compares women’s suicidal activity to mens’ and concludes that women more actively thought and talked about ending their lives than men, with relatively few ending their lives, whereas the suicidal behavior of men was more often lethal when compared to women.

Keywords:   Confederate women, soldiers’ wives, homefront, war zone, insane asylum, suicidal behavior suicide, postpartum disorders, postpartum psychosis, gender roles, paternalism

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