10 books like Women's Life and Work in the Southern Colonies

By Julia Cherry Spruill,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Women's Life and Work in the Southern Colonies. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Life on a Plantation

By Bobbie Kalman,

Book cover of Life on a Plantation

When I begin researching a new historical subject I usually turn first to children’s books for a quick, broad overview. For Southern USA plantation life, Kalman’s book, part of the Historic Communities series, is a perfect introduction to the subject of southern plantations, with splendidly detailed drawings of homes and outbuildings, a glossary of terms, and many photographs from the latter decades before emancipation. Its focus is split between the planters’ lives and the lives of those they enslaved, introducing readers to every facet of this setting and the challenges faced by those who lived there. A great springboard into the subject for homeschooling.

Life on a Plantation

By Bobbie Kalman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life on a Plantation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Describes the plantations that existed in the southern United States into the nineteenth century, examining what life was like for the owners of these large farming communities, their children, and the slaves.


Back of the Big House

By John Michael Vlach,

Book cover of Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery

Though it was wealthy white planters who built plantations, the enslaved people who worked them imbued these landscapes with their own meanings. With over 200 photographs and drawings of Antebellum plantations, Vlach leads readers on a tour of plantation outbuildings, providing examples of how slaves used these spaces despite—and in defiance of—their masters’ intentions. Testimonies of former slaves (drawn from the Federal Writers’ Project collection) give the reader a sense of what it was like to live and work in these settings.

Back of the Big House

By John Michael Vlach,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Back of the Big House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Behind the ""Big Houses"" of the antebellum South existed a different world, socially and architecturally, where slaves lived and worked. John Michael Vlach explores the structures and spaces that formed the slaves' environment. Through photographs and the words of former slaves, he portrays the plantation landscape from the slaves' own point of view. The plantation landscape was chiefly the creation of slaveholders, but Vlach argues convincingly that slaves imbued this landscape with their own meanings. Their subtle acts of appropriation constituted one of the more effective strategies of slave resistance and one that provided a locus for the formation of…


Within the Plantation Household

By Elizabeth Fox-Genovese,

Book cover of Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South

This extensive and prize-winning narrative of Southern women’s daily existence in the antebellum era covers all the bases on this subject. With the following chapter titles, how could it not? Southern Women, Southern Households; The View from the Big House; Between Big House and Slave Community; Gender Conventions; Women Who Opposed Slavery; And Women Who Did Not. A must-read for anyone wishing to delve into the subject of women’s lives in the antebellum south.

Within the Plantation Household

By Elizabeth Fox-Genovese,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Within the Plantation Household as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Documenting the difficult class relations between women slaveholders and slave women, this study shows how class and race as well as gender shaped women's experiences and determined their identities. Drawing upon massive research in diaries, letters, memoirs, and oral histories, the author argues that the lives of antebellum southern women, enslaved and free, differed fundamentally from those of northern women and that it is not possible to understand antebellum southern women by applying models derived from New England sources. |A powerful historical study in which the author's use of letters, memoirs, oral histories, as well as extensive archival sources bring…


The Plantation Mistress

By Catherine Clinton,

Book cover of The Plantation Mistress: Woman's World in the Old South

Another in-depth examination of the topic, this book focuses on the fifty-five years following the Revolutionary War, exploring the swift and sweeping changes in American society during this early Federal period and how they influenced the daily lives of planters’ wives. Clinton drew on hundreds of memoirs, diaries, and women’s letters to explore the issue of gender in antebellum Southern culture. This book makes a good follow up to Spruill’s work on the lives of Southern colonial era women.

The Plantation Mistress

By Catherine Clinton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Plantation Mistress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This pioneering study of the much-mythologized Southern belle offers the first serious look at the lives of white women and their harsh and restricted place in the slave society before the Civil War. Drawing on the diaries, letters, and memoirs of hundreds of planter wives and daughters, Clinton sets before us in vivid detail the daily life of the plantation mistress and her ambiguous intermediary position in the hierarchy between slave and master.

"The Plantation Mistress challenges and reinterprets a host of issues related to the Old South. The result is a book that forces us to rethink some of…


Founding Mothers

By Cokie Roberts,

Book cover of Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation

I love reading about women from the past who asserted themselves in a world where there was little was expected from them besides obedience to the men in their lives. Founding Mothers is a story of influential women prior to and after the American Revolution, with many quotes from personal correspondence, from Abigail Adams to Martha Washington. Not only do we read of the activities in which they participated, including births and deaths of their own children, but the emotions that kept them company as well. Touching on the lives of those less renowned as well, Founding Mothers is a springboard for deeper research into the lives of women living in young America. 

Founding Mothers

By Cokie Roberts,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Founding Mothers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Cokie Roberts comes New York Times bestseller Founding Mothers, an intimate and illuminating look at the fervently patriotic and passionate women whose tireless pursuits on behalf of their families—and their country—proved just as crucial to the forging of a new nation as the rebellion that established it.

While much has been written about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, battled the British, and framed the Constitution, the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters they left behind have been little noticed by history. #1 New York Times bestselling author Cokie Roberts brings us…


Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South

By Joe Gray Taylor,

Book cover of Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South: An Informal History

My grandfather hunted squirrels to put in the stew pot, raised turnips and mustard greens, and shared all that he had with family and neighbors. Joe Gray Taylor’s book takes us back to the beginnings of the cuisine and hospitality of the American South where folks made the most of the natural environment and its riches. This book also describes the way people “visited” in the South, sometimes staying with relatives or friends for weeks or months on end, the hosts accepting them naturally, adding places at the table. Taylor covers Southern hospitality from the days of the frontier through the antebellum and Civil War years and Reconstruction, including the richest and the most impoverished populations, reminding me that I myself am just one generation removed from living off the land.

Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South

By Joe Gray Taylor,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A lively, informal history of over three centuries of southern hospitality and cuisine, Eating, Drinking, and Visiting in the South traces regional gastronomy from the sparse diet of Jamestown settlers, who learned from necessity to eat what the Indians ate, to the lavish corporate cocktail parties of the New South. Brimming with memorable detail, this book by Joe Gray Taylor ranges from the groaning plates of the great plantations, witnessed by Frederick Law Olmsted and a great many others, to the less-than-appetizing extreme guests often confronted in the South's nineteenth-century inns and taverns: ""execrable coffee, rancid butter, and very dubious…


The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1739-1762

By Elise Pinckney (editor), Marvin R. Zahniser (editor),

Book cover of The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1739-1762

I kept a diary as a teen, but it won’t be preserved as any kind of example of what the world was like during my life. The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, however, provides a detailed record of daily life in South Carolina in the decades before the American Revolution. Eliza’s letters to her father, friends, and business acquaintances depict life on a plantation from the direct experience of a girl curious, innovative, and determined in her role as manager of several businesses and creator of more. 

The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1739-1762

By Elise Pinckney (editor), Marvin R. Zahniser (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, 1739-1762 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Intriguing letters by one of colonial America's most accomplished women

One of the most distinguished women of colonial America, Eliza Lucas Pinckney pioneered large-scale cultivation of indigo in South Carolina, managed her father's extensive plantation holdings, and raised two sons―Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Thomas Pinckney―who would become celebrated patriots of the new nation. Pinckney's lively letters reveal insightful details about an eventful life, including her myriad interests, changing politics, innovative ideas about slave education, voracious reading habits, and unusually happy marriage. Substantial footnotes and a newly revised introduction complement Pinckney's delightful correspondence.


The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution

By Charles Woodmason,

Book cover of The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution: The Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason, Anglican Itinerant

Charles Woodmason was an Anglican preacher sent in 1766 by the church to minister to the inhabitants of the South Carolina Backcountry. Through his journal entries I feel “Roads hot and Sandy—and Weather excessive Sultry,” and “Night frozen with the Cold,” and hunger, with nothing to eat but “Indian Corn Bread” and water. I see people who “Live in Logg Cabbins like Hogs” with “Behavior as rude or more so than Savages” and children running half-naked in the cold. Woodmason’s journals, sermons, and letters provide rich and raw details of life in South Carolina before the American Revolution in the way only first-hand accounts can impart. 

The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution

By Charles Woodmason,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In what is probably the fullest and most vivid extant account of the American Colonial frontier, The Carolina Backcountry on the Eve of the Revolution gives shape to the daily life, thoughts, hopes, and fears of the frontier people. It is set forth by one of the most extraordinary men who ever sought out the wilderness--Charles Woodmason, an Anglican minister whose moral earnestness and savage indignation, combined with a vehement style, make him worthy of comparison with Swift. The book consists of his journal, selections from the sermons he preached to his Backcountry congregations, and the letters he wrote to…


Confederate Reckoning

By Stephanie McCurry,

Book cover of Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South

A great book for teaching me how much the wartime experiences and political resistance of the soldiers’ wives and the slaves impacted the fate of the Confederacy and pushed it in directions never imagined by the planters who created the Confederacy to serve their interests and not the majority of the population they expected to do their bidding. 

Confederate Reckoning

By Stephanie McCurry,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Confederate Reckoning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pulitzer Prize Finalist
Winner of the Frederick Douglass Book Prize
Winner of the Merle Curti Award

"McCurry strips the Confederacy of myth and romance to reveal its doomed essence. Dedicated to the proposition that men were not created equal, the Confederacy had to fight a two-front war. Not only against Union armies, but also slaves and poor white women who rose in revolt across the South. Richly detailed and lucidly told, Confederate Reckoning is a fresh, bold take on the Civil War that every student of the conflict should read."
-Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic

"McCurry challenges…


Womenfolks

By Shirley Abbott,

Book cover of Womenfolks: Growing Up Down South

A wittily written, powerful evocation of women’s lives in Arkansas from the 1930s to the 1980s, the history of how they got there and what made them such strong women. This is a revelation of family myth and tradition told fondly, yet with piercing pragmatism, in a way that provides insights into how we can understand women’s lives at all periods and in all places.

Womenfolks

By Shirley Abbott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Womenfolks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Reflects on the experience of growing up female in the South, explaining the meaning of the southern heritage, the southern notion of the feminine ideal, and the reasons why southern women leave their roots.


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