The Mahoning Valley Historical Society’s Curator of Education, Traci Manning, will present “UnCaged — Extraordinary Women of the American Civil War” at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center in downtown Youngstown.
The presentation is free in recognition of Women’s History Month, which is celebrated during March, corresponding with International Women’s Day, which was March 8.
Manning will speak about the courageous and bold women who shattered social norms and broke traditional gender spheres during the nation’s darkest hours. Case studies will highlight such women as Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, Elizabeth Keckley and Laura Keene. These women felt compelled to transform their lives for the betterment of both themselves and the nation.
During the mid-19th century, most women lived in two very separate worlds — public and private. Their public life was controlled by the idea that men were in charge and most professional fields were beyond the capabilities of a woman. Their private life centered on domesticity. The political turmoil of the era began to open doors previously locked.
As hundreds of thousands of men enlisted to fight in the emerging Civil War, entire towns were wiped clean of their adult male populations. Women across both sides of the conflict were running households, farms, managing businesses and overseeing the jobs of those men.
For some women, the newfound freedom gave them the opportunity to publicly question the preconceived notions of traditional gender roles.
It took 55 more years before women were given the right to vote, but these women, and many others, laid the groundwork for a path to gender equality.