Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America

Norton. May 2019. 704p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780393047998. $39.95; ebk. ISBN 9780393355734. HIST
Hall (history emerita, dir., Southern oral history, Univ. of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Revolt Against Chivalry) plumbs the story of the Lumpkin sisters of Georgia, who were born in the 19th century into a culture steeped in white supremacy, and whose father was a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan. Katharine, the youngest, was influenced by both liberal Christianity and exposure to black activists through the YWCA. She underwent a shifting of consciousness, which would inspire her to a life of advocacy. Grace Lumpkin was similarly drawn to progressivism and believed capitalism gave rise to oppression and division, particularly in the South, where racial fears were stoked to further political ends. Hall devotes considerably less ink to eldest sister Elizabeth, who was a standard bearer and orator for the mythology of the Old South and the Lost Cause. It is primarily through the lens of Katharine that the author traces the journey of a Southerner to remake and improve the region she calls home. Hall's perceptive and elegant writing and her extensive, decades-long research into the sisters' lives provides rich context for the creation of Southern reformers as a political force.
VERDICT Highly recommended for readers interested in women's history and American intellectual history.
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