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Divorce in Civil War-Era Wheeling

March 05, 2024
12:00pm - 1:00pm

Divorce in Civil War-Era Wheeling

For Women’s History Month, Allison Fredette will discuss the new book she edited, Heartsick and Astonished: Divorce in Civil War-Era West Virginia, featuring 27 divorce cases from mid-nineteenth century America. More than dry legal documents, these cases provide a captivating window into marital life - and strife- during the Civil War era In Wheeling, courtrooms bore witness to men and women from various ethnic, racial, and class backgrounds who shared shockingly intimate details of their lives and relationships. In an era of uncertainty - when the country was torn in two, when Wheeling became the capital of a new state, and when activists across the country began to push for women’s rights in the household and family - the divorce cases of ordinary couples reveal changing attitudes toward marriage, gender, and legal separation.

Speaker Bio:  Allison Fredette is an assistant professor of history at Appalachian State University. She earned a B.A. and an M.A. from West Virginia University and completed her Ph.D. in American History at the University of Florida. She studies the nineteenth-century American South, as well as the history of marriage, gender, and the family. Her first book, Marriage on the Border: Love, Mutuality, and Divorce in the Upper South during the Civil War, explores the connections between place and attitudes toward marriage and gender roles in the Border South states of Kentucky and West Virginia during the mid-nineteenth century. Her second book, an edited collection, is called Heartsick and Astonished: Divorce in Civil War-Era West Virginia, brings together some of the most intriguing divorce cases from Ohio County in the mid-nineteenth century. Her newest project, Murdering Laura Foster: Violence, Gender, and Memory in Appalachian North Carolina, revisits the infamous 1866 Wilkesboro murder case that inspired the ballad, "Tom Dooley."

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