/ Articles / Book Review: Wisconsin women and the Civil War in ‘Such Anxious Hours’

Book Review: Wisconsin women and the Civil War in ‘Such Anxious Hours’

January 10, 2020 by Emily Koester

“Such Anxious Hours: Wisconsin Women’s Voices from the Civil War” follows eight women: Emily Quiner, Annie Cox, Susan Brown and sister Ann Waldo, Margaret McNash Patchin, Sarah Powers, Mary E. Swannell, and Rosabella Arnold, through letters and journal entries during their lives in Wisconsin as they experience the Civil War. These women range in social status and age, the book developing an engaging new commentary on a war most are familiar with only from the minds of men. Twenty-one-year-old Quiner’s journal entries start with short recaps of late night socials and volunteer work, and later her experiences in a Tennessee hospital, while letters from the others to their soldier friends or husbands paint a picture of the women trying to keep life in Wisconsin going for their families while missing their soldiers. 

Edited by Jo Ann Daly Carr, a librarian and director of media, education resources and information technology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education, historical context from Carr is included throughout the book to fill in what cannot be gathered from the original writings of the women. Carr includes in her introduction a short summary of each woman’s life and role during the Civil War, which became a nice, quick reference point while reading the book. 

The book reads in chronological order, opening with a journal entry from Quiner on April 15, 1861, and ending with a letter written by Arnold to her brother on April 16, 1865. Carr explains that the materials written by these women during the war were all transcribed as clearly as possible, and notes are made throughout the book when original materials were either illegible or missing. While the pace drags occasionally, the authenticity of the writing is kept throughout, and the personal growth of some of the women is apparent through their writings.

Published by the University of Wisconsin Press, “Such Anxious Hours” presents an almost entirely unseen perspective of the American Civil War through authentic writings of women who may not have always been directly affected by the war, but dealt with their own struggles on the homefront in Wisconsin.

“This war is a terrible thing, but we hope soon by the blessing of God it will be brought to a close and bloodshed and horror no longer blight our fair land.” — Emily Quiner, April 12, 1862, three years before the war ended.

Emily Koester may be reached at [email protected].

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