First Lady
  of the
  Joan E. Cashin

   Short Biography


When Jefferson Davis became president of the Confederacy, his wife, Varina Howell Davis, reluctantly became the First Lady. For this highly intelligent, acutely observant woman, loyalty did not come easily: she spent long years struggling to reconcile her societal duties to her personal beliefs. Raised in Mississippi but educated in Philadelphia, and a long-time resident of Washington, D.C., Mrs. Davis never felt at ease in Richmond. During the war she nursed Union prisoners and secretly corresponded with friends in the North. Though she publicly supported the South, her term as First Lady was plagued by rumors of her disaffection. After the war, Varina Davis endured financial woes and the loss of several children, but following her husband's death in 1889, she moved to New York and began a career in journalism. Here she advocated reconciliation between the North and South and became friends with Julia Grant, the widow of Ulysses S. Grant. She shocked many by declaring in a newspaper that it was God's will that the North won the war. A century after Varina Davis's death in 1906, Joan E. Cashin has written a masterly work, the first definitive biography of this truly modern, but deeply conflicted, woman. Pro-slavery but also pro-Union, Varina Davis was inhibited by her role as Confederate First Lady and unable to reveal her true convictions. In this pathbreaking book, Cashin offers a splendid portrait of a fascinating woman who struggled with the constraints of her time and place.

Finalist 2006 Jefferson Davis Award, Museum of the Confederacy, Runner-Up 2006-2007 The Society of Midland Authors Book Awards Competition, Biography Category


Joan E. Cashin, is Associate Professor of History at Ohio State University, B.A., from The American University, 1977; M.A., 1980; Ph.D., 1986, Harvard University.

A historian of the United States, Professor Cashin specializes in social history, including the antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction eras. She has published A Family Venture: Men and Women on the Southern Frontier (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), as well as many articles on social and cultural history. In 1996 she published Our Common Affairs: Texts from Women in the Old South with The Johns Hopkins University Press, and an edition of William Wells Brown's novel, Clotel, with M.E. Sharpe.

Harvard University Press/Belknap Press,| 372 pages | 0674022947 | September 2006