Friday, August 24, 2012
Say hello to my great-great grand aunt, Margaret Jane Short. Born in August of 1835, she was the daughter of Jacob Short and Mary Sybilla Kuhn, and they lived in a back-water township near the borders of Indiana and Westmoreland Counties in Western Pennsylvania. I'm still working on her story, but thus far we know that her husband died in 1864, leaving her with six children under the age of ten, and she only 24 years old herself. It's a distinct possibility that her husband Daniel (Metz) was in the army at the time of his death, but standard channels aren't kicking up his name. We also know that she remarried, and died in 1885 at the age of 50. And she was likely Irish Catholic.
I think I *might* know where she may be buried, but that's going to be a road trip reserved for when the kids go back to school.
The destruction of the Civil War created thousands of widows in the former Confederacy. With such large-scale loss, both Southern communities and, most importantly, the widows themselves, navigated a complex grieving process that balanced community and individual needs. By studying how Confederate widows grieved, we can better understand the psychological impact of the war on southern society. In the aftermath of death, social networks and religious communities encouraged widows to follow a short, public grieving process that did not emphasize one individual’s suffering over another and did not question their faith in God. Widows absorbed these messages, but reshaped them to develop their own prolonged, private grieving process in order to confront their emotions, gradually minimized their identity as a wife, and increasingly accepted the loss of their husband. During this process, widows created a new conception of their self-identity, which shaped their actions during Reconstruction.
Ashley Michelle Mays, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill