"For Country and For Home": Elite Richmond Women and Changing Southern Womanhood during the First World War

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Virginia Tech

Using Richmond as a case study, this thesis seeks to answer the following question: what was the effect of the First World War on elite white Richmond women's roles as southern women? This thesis argues that, while white southern women's roles had been changing since the Civil War, it was not until World War I that southern women's traditional roles were challenged by ideas of national patriotism and citizenship. This thesis traces the trajectory of change from the last decades of the nineteenth century, when Richmond women began to join women's organizations and participate more fully in public life, through World War I. This thesis argues that during the war, national organizations that formed chapters in Richmond challenged the predominant ideas about women's public responsibilities, which had focused on their city, state, and region. This war relief work with the Red Cross and governmental programs like Liberty Loan drives encouraged women to work beyond traditional domestic roles and challenged conceptions of southern womanhood. This thesis contends that, while some women adapted more fully to these changes, all Richmond women integrated new ideas about national womanhood into their identities, creating a new southern woman who was both southern and American.

Women – Virginia – History, 1914-1918 – Women – United States – History, World War, Women – United States – History – 20th Century, Women and War – United States – History, Women – Southern States – History