Women, the Lost Cause, and the New South: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the transmission of Confederate culture, 1894-1919

Karen Lynne Cox

Abstract

The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) was organized in 1894 and quickly became one of the largest and most influential women's organizations in the South, reaching a membership of nearly 100,000 by World War I. The "Daughters" were the leaders of what historians refer to as the "Lost Cause celebration." They built monuments to the Confederacy throughout the South, they worked to provide aging Confederate men and women with benevolent assistance, they assisted other Confederate organizations in providing "impartial" history to students in the white public schools, they actively involved children in the Lost Cause celebration, and they impeded the process of sectional reconciliation until it could be achieved on the South's terms. In each case, the UDC's goal was to achieve vindication for its Confederate ancestors, men and women, whom UDC members believed had defended a "just" cause, namely states' rights and white supremacy, during the Civil War. The UDC influenced the social and political culture of the New South between 1894 and 1919 and had an impact on the region long after the organization peaked in influence during World War I. By transmitting Confederate culture--the ideology and symbols of states' rights and white supremacy--the Daughters not only kept their memory of the Civil War alive, but also helped lay a foundation for massive resistance to desegregation at mid-century.