Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2022

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Mary T. Freeman

Second Committee Member

Liam Riordan

Third Committee Member

Mark J. McLaughlin


This thesis explores the experiences of Northern New England women during the Civil War. Though these women were physically distant from the frontlines, the war came to their doorsteps. The war challenged and changed the physical and idealized space of the household and women’s role within it. This thesis examines how women experienced, resisted, or enacted wartime changes to household space. Through an examination of letters written by women, this study argues that, despite the disruptions of the war and the absence of male family members, Northern New England women fought to protect their homes from change.

Women used a variety of approaches to ensure the survival of their households. In their attempts to achieve a home that would emerge from the war largely unaffected, Northern New England women both exploited and subverted prewar gender roles. They wrote to government officials, expressed political opinions, and oriented their patriotic efforts towards their homes and local communities in attempts to protect their households from the ravages of war. They achieved financial and emotional stability in their homes by taking on the traditionally male role of economic provider and used letter writing to create a semblance of normalcy and maintain familial roles and connections. Though Northern New England women resisted wartime transformations, they often had to embrace a degree of change or innovation in the name of preserving their vision of an idealized household for a postwar future. Despite their efforts to minimize the impact of the war on their homes, women’s wartime actions redefined the household space and their roles within it.