Since today is Labor Day I thought we might consider what labor was like in 1861. Of course in the South, mostly agrarian, we know that work on the Plantations was done mainly by blacks. Many also went to war with their masters, and later received Confederate pensions, and in many cases recovered and brought home the last earthly remains of their masters. And when the men went off to war, the women had to work the farm or oversee the plantation.
The North was much more industrial and many men worked in factories. After the war began, opportunities for women on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line were abundant in a variety of vocations never offered to women before. These included nursing, spying, factory work, government office work and even soldiering.
The record of accomplishment and fortitude left by the women of the War Between the States foreshadowed the status of social structure to come and changed forever the way their gender would be viewed by men.
And in the words of Stephen Vincent Benet, in the South, it was the women on the home front who “made courage from terror and bread from Bran, and propped the South on a ‘Swansdown fan.’ “