“Pflugrad-Jackisch offers a nuanced and powerful reconsideration of how class and masculinity were constructed in the Old South. Her imaginative exploration of a rich array of sources brings to light the secret world of Virginia’s fraternal societies.”
—Lorri Glover, author of Southern Sons: Becoming Men in the New Nation
"Brothers of a Vow makes a solid contribution to the expanding literature on the developing middle class in the antebellum South. It also helps to enlarge our understanding of the culture and place of non-elite white men in the South."
"Succeeds admirably in demonstrating that the study of fraternal orders need not confine itself to arcane lore; instead, it can show us how groups of men rallied around their similarities to their own benefit, and to the detriment of those they considered their inferiors. Pflugrad‐Jackisch makes fraternal orders socially and politically meaningful beyond the lodge."
—Nicholas L. Syrett, American Historical Review
"Brothers of a Vow is a fine work. It adds life to the wooden figure of the southern white male, and, like all good books. The questions it asks open into broader considerations."
—John Mayfield, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
"Brothers of a Vow effectively adds to the growing literature regarding southern voluntary associations and a nascent middle class. It also offers new insights on masculinity and the complex issues of class and gender in the antebellum South."
—John G. Deal, Journal of Southern History
"[Brothers of a Vow] helps us to see the rich complexity of the cultural debate about manhood in antebellum Virginia, and how it helped to mitigate conflict among white men, even as it also bolstered their power over southern society."
—Brian P. Luskey, West Virginia History
In Brothers of a Vow, Ami Pflugrad-Jackisch examines secret fraternal organizations in antebellum Virginia to offer fresh insight into masculinity and the redefinition of social and political roles of white men in the South.
Young Virginians who came of age during the antebellum era lived through a time of tremendous economic, cultural, and political upheaval. In a state increasingly pulled between the demands of the growing market and the long-established tradition of unfree labor, Pflugrad-Jackisch argues that groups like the Freemasons, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the Sons of Temperance promoted market-oriented values and created bonds among white men that softened class distinctions. At the same time, these groups sought to stabilize social hierarchies that subordinated blacks and women.
Pflugrad-Jackisch examines all aspects of the secret orders—including their bylaws and proceedings, their material culture and regalia, and their participation in a wide array of festivals, parades, and civic celebrations. Regarding gender, she shows how fraternal orders helped reinforce an alternative definition of southern white manhood that emphasized self-discipline, moral character, temperance, and success at work. These groups ultimately established a civic brotherhood among white men that marginalized the role of women in the public sphere and bolstered the respectability of white men regardless of class status.
Brothers of a Vow is a nuanced look at how dominant groups craft collective identities, and it adds to our understanding of citizenship and political culture during a period of rapid change.
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