Last July I organized a panel discussion called “Southern Fried Feminism,” at the Southeastern Association of Law Schools 2005 Annual Meeting. My panelists included Deseriee Kennedy, who gave a feminist critique of “abstinence only” sex education as promulgated by the Christian Right, Adrienne Davis, who talked about feminism and legacies of slavery, and Susan Grover, who discussed feminism and female characters in Southern literature. They are all terrific scholars and speakers, and if you ever get a chance to hear any of them present a paper, by all means take it. They drew a large and interested audience, and in the question and answer period there was a lot of discussion about the unique aspects and challenges of being a feminist in the American South.
I thought about that panel a lot as I read “The March” by E.L. Doctorow. While I might not go so far as to call this a “feminist book,” it does a decent job of including multidimensional female characters, and describing the hardships and challenges the Civil War imposed upon women. I found it to be a very engaging read. Of course, I took a special interest in the chapters recounting the burning of Columbia, South Carolina that occurred while Sherman’s army occupied my hometown.