Chapter 12: Abstract

Gender and the Wars of Nation-building and Nation-keeping in the Americas, 1830s-1870s

Amy Greenberg (Penn State University, Department of History)


The middle decades of the nineteenth-century in the Americas were marked by dramatic warfare in the name of nationalism. The two most important conflicts were the US-Mexican Wars (1846–48) and the US Civil War (1861–65). Both participants and observers interpreted the causes and outcomes of these most important conflicts as crucial to gender relations. As this chapter demonstrates, war and martial masculinity were often mutually reinforcing during wartime, while more restrained practices of manhood gained precedence after war’s end. Practices of womanhood were also shaped by the demands of war, leading in many cases to short-term increases in female autonomy and authority. In the long term, however, women rarely benefited from the larger equation that citizenship was grounded in military sacrifice. Female subservience was ensured by a widespread division between public and private that granted authority and the right to privacy to male heads of households within their domains.


Citizenship; Domesticity; Manhood; Martial Masculinity; Nation-building; Nation-keeping; Gender; Women; US-Mexican War; US Civil War; Mexico; Spanish America; North America.

In Part II “Wars of Nations and Empires” of the Oxford Handbook of Gender and War since 1600.

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