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Episode Info: Judith Giesberg, an expert on the history of women and gender during the Civil War, is professor and director of graduate studies in the history department at Villanova University and Editor of The Journal of the Civil War Era. Two of her previous books include Civil War Sisterhood: The United States Sanitary Commission and Women’s Politics in Transition (2000), which is about the understudied roles of women in relief efforts during the war, and “Army at Home”: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front (2009), which concerns the experiences of working class women in the north. She is also the principal editor of Emilie Davis’s Civil War: The Diaries of a Free Black Woman in Philadelphia (2014). Her latest book, and the subject of our discussion, is Sex and the Civil War: Soldiers, Pornography, and the Making of an American Morality (University of North Carolina Press, 2017). Giesberg argues that the Civil War is the turning point for the influential rise of postwar anti-pornography laws and a genesis for the related network of anti-vice campaigns, which included laws against contraceptives and abortion, newly entrenched legal regulations of marriage, and ever broader social purity initiatives around sexuality. We discuss how crucial, and yet understudied, questions of sex and desire are to the Civil War era and how silence around them has affected the ways we talk about and regulate social relations today. Much of our conversation focuses on how a small group of men created new regulationRead more »

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