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This paper examines how gender shaped the family of Nancy Hood McGee, who belonged to one of Georgia’s antebellum planter families, across four generations. The McGee family had joined the planter class late in the antebellum period, and after the American Civil War they continued to be prosperous farmers in the former cotton belt. The essay proposes that women in the McGee family played a determining role in the family’s economic success during this time period. As such, it relates to scholarship on women in the nineteenth-century American South as well as to the role of women within southern families. It also serves as a case study on the importance of the female legacy in family history and genealogy that should be studied as a model in similar instances. McGee women became active in agriculture, business, and education. Research focused on records that revealed information about the family’s social and economic development. No diaries and only a few family letters were located, but information transmitted through oral history proved important. Other sources included census records, legal documents such as wills and deeds, newspaper articles, and church records. The research suggested that women in the McGee family played an active role in shaping the family’s development across nearly two centuries. This contrasts with popular images of southern women as weak and delicate, although it corresponds with recent research that has highlighted the accomplishments of nineteenth-century women in the American South. Of particular significance is that women in the McGee family kept a record of accomplishment and achievement across several generations of changing circumstances.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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