"Joan Johnson's new book, based on prodigious research, tells a fascinating story about the influence of a northern education on this privileged group of southern women who in turn had a significant influence on southern society. It is a very welcome addition to what we know about women in the New South and also adds a valuable new dimension to the story of regional reconciliation after the Civil War."
—Marjorie J. Spruill, author of New Women of the New South: The Leaders of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the Southern States
"Johnson's engaging portrait of an influential group of women significantly deepens our insight into the female college experience and the new models of activist womanhood that helped shape the Progressive Era South."
"[Joan M.] Johnson’s reliance on primary sources and scrupulous use of selected secondary sources make Southern Women at the Seven Sister Colleges a real contribution to southern women’s history at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. When Johnson concentrates on the special influences of southern life, the result is especially fascinating."
—North Carolina Historical Review
Attending one of the Seven Sister colleges, Johnson argues, could transform a southern woman indoctrinated in notions of domesticity and dependence into someone with newfound confidence and leadership skills. Many southern students at northern schools imported the values they imbibed at college, returning home to found schools of their own, women’s clubs, and woman suffrage associations. At the same time, during college and after graduation, southern women maintained a complicated relationship to home, nurturing their regional identity and remaining loyal to the ideals of the Confederacy.
Johnson explores why students sought a classical liberal arts education, how they prepared for entrance examinations, and how they felt as southerners on northern campuses. She draws on personal writings, information gleaned from college publications and records, and data on the women’s decisions about marriage, work, children, and other life-altering concerns.
In their time, the women studied in this book would eventually make up a disproportionately high percentage of the elite southern female leadership. This collective biography highlights the important part they played in forging new roles for women, especially in social reform, education, and suffrage.
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