Women’s War review: Women and the changing rules of war

Stephanie McCurry’s perceptive insights put flesh on the bones of a bare historical record

Women have been wrongly rendered invisible in histories of war, including the American Civil War, according to Stephanie McCurry, professor of history at Columbia University and one of America’s leading authorities on its civil war. We need, she believes, the version of history that does not leave out the role played by women. Her last book, Confederate Reckoning, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

In her latest book, McCurry uses Clara Judd, a Confederate spy in Tennessee, to illustrate how universal rules of war were changed in 1863 to address the problem of women like Judd who were taking advantage of the existing distinction between combatants and non-combatants to pass freely between Union and Confederate lines. They would give information on enemy troop movements to the Confederacy and even hide firearms in their homes.

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