Includes bibliographical references (pages 285-297) and index.
Ch. 1. "No Place for Woman"?: Sophronia Bucklin and Civil War Nursing -- Ch. 2. "Men Did Not Take to the Musket More Commonly Than Women to the Needle": Annie Wittemyer and Soldier's Aid -- Ch. 3. "A Thing That Nothing But the Depraved Yankee Nation Could Produce": Mary Walker, M.D., and the Limits of Tolerance -- Ch. 4. The Women and the Storytellers After the War.
In Yankee women: Gender Battles in the Civil War, Elizabeth Leonard portrays the multiple ways in which women dedicated themselves to the Union. By delving deeply into the lives of three women - Sophronia Bucklin, Annie Wittenmyer, and Mary Walker - Leonard brings to life the daily manifestations of women's wartime service. Bucklin traveled to the frontline hospitals to nurse the wounded and ill, bearing the hardships along with the men. Wittenmyer extended her antebellum charitable activities to organizing committees to supply goods for the troops in Iowa, setting up orphanages for the children of Union soldiers, and creating and managing special diet kitchens for the sick soldiers. Mary Walker forms her own unique category. A feminist and dress reformer, she became the only woman to sign a contract as a doctor for the Union forces. In hospitals and at the battlefront, she tended the wounded in her capacity as a physician and even endured imprisonment as a spy. In their service to the Union, these women faced not only the normal privations of war but also other challenges that thwarted many of their efforts. Bucklin was more daring than some nurses in confronting those in charge if she felt she was being prevented from doing what was needed for the soldiers under her care. In her memoir, she recounted the frictions between the men and women supposedly toiling for a unified purpose. Wittenmyer, like other women in soldiers' aid, also had to stand up to male challengers. When the governor of Iowa appointed a male-dominated, state sanitary commission in direct conflict with her own Keokuk Ladies' Aid Society, Wittenmyer and the women who worked with her fought successfully to keep their organization afloat and get the recognition they deserved. Walker struggled throughout most of the war to be acknowledged as a physician and to receive a surgeon's appointment. Her steadfast will prevailed in getting her a contract but not a commission, and even her contract could not withstand the end of the war. Despite the desperate need for doctors, Walker's dress and demand for equal treatment provoked the anger of the men in a position to promote her cause. After telling these women's stories, Leonard evokes the period after the Civil War when most historians tried to rewrite history to show how women had stepped out of their "normal natures" to perform heroic tasks, but were now able and willing to retreat to the domesticity that had been at the center of their prewar lives. Postwar historians thanked women for their contributions at the same time that they failed fully to consider what those contributions had been and the conflicts they had provoked. Mary Walker's story most clearly reveals the divisiveness of these conflicts. But no one could forget the work women had accomplished during the war and the ways in which they had succeeded in challenging the prewar vision of Victorian womanhood.