Amazing day with an amazing class. We took up Anya Jabour’s study on the way in which young elite white women in our antebellum past disrupted expectations especially during the Civil War. Time away from home at school permitted some of them to think deeply about the changing world around them that included them. Although southern belles are stereotyped icons, this class demonstrated such women were also quite complex.
They fit on a continuum of women, among them ones like Autherine Lucy, who paved the way for integrating this university, and others who voted for interwar UA law student Carl Elliott, the subject of an exhibition in the University of Alabama’s Gorgas Library, as he, too, pushed for social progress.
Said one student via a discussion board post, “As a whole, the change over time in how womanhood was defined and contextualized is shown throughout the UA campus and gives us insight into the complexity of the female adolescence, more specifically the southern belle. The contradicting items that showcase womanhood and the foresight of Carl Elliott with his pursuit of women voters all fit into this narrative.”
Added another student: “[R]eality is never cut and dry definitions but a messy jumble of specific cases trends may emerge but rules are seldom universal.”
They were challenged to find old and new conceptions of womanhood in UA’s SupeStore. They also visited a timeline of UA history that rightly included women and the site of the now demolished Kilgore House, which once housed some of UA’s first coeds.
One of my students moved me when she inquired about a photo of some of those turn of the century coeds after class.
“I want to know their names,” she said.
Yet another student said, “The study of history can invite simplification, but for every historical pattern, there are total inversions and exceptions which remind us that people then and now resist categorization and simplification. Societies are not simple, and people never have been.”
Shout out to them all. Roll Tide!