Our Common Affairs Texts from Women in the Old South (review)

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Our Common Affairs Texts from Women in the Old South (review)

by Kathryn McKee
Southern Cultures, Vol. 3, No. 3: Sports in the South

The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996.

“Writing is a delightful invention,” Margaret Manigault wrote to her sister Georgina in 1811. “Is it not admirable that at this distance of thousands of miles we should be able to disclose with safety secrets of the utmost importance?” Joan E. Cashin opens these “secrets of utmost importance” to the reader in Our Common Affairs: Texts from Women in the Old South. Cashin’s impeaccably researched compilation of correspondence between white antebellum women reads like compelling fiction. Yet filled with family quarrels, hints of romance, and the advancing clouds of secession and civil war, the letters Cashin includes in her collection escort the reader into the lives of real women. These documents establish the existence of what Cashin identifies as a “culture of resignation,” a distinctly southern female culture that separated the women of this region from their northern counterparts and rescued them from repeated assumptions that they existed in a sterile environment, devoid of gender-based camaraderie.