Terrible Highlights from Old United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazines
A small stack of United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazines
Dates: 1979, 1984, 1985
Publisher: The United Daughters of the Confederacy, Richmond, Va.
Discovered at: A bleak Kansas City estate sale
The Cover Promises: Awkward family photos meet stiff and creepy slave-owner cosplay.
Ladies, we are being swept under the broom of history. The pen is mightier that the sword, and it has used a very strong broom on us. [December, 1985, page 32]
The Confederacy could well have been proud of their women. Their conduct during the war won them the wholehearted respect of their men. They were for secession and were solidly behind the men in their fight for the Southern cause. Relative to the feminine activist movement of today, it can be said that the War Between the States was the first step enabling women in this country to change their status and become recognized on their own merits in a heretofore all male dominated existence. [June, 1979, page 20]
Yes, the UDC invented feminism!
As a longtime fan of the Kansas City Royals, your Crap Archivist understands the need of people in a bleak present to stir within themselves a connection to some more noble past. It's understandable that even American Southerners on the wrong side of history might draw some residual honor from their long-gone history of courtliness, tea-ruining, and taking up arms against the federal government to defend the cruelest and most dishonorable social arrangement that this country has ever known.
Sure, I can understand a touch of impolitic pride in lunatic bastard ancestors. I mean, that beats walking around thinking, "My great-greats went to war because they thought that I should have the right to whip a long day's work out of the man who is currently the president." That would make them feel bad! (So would showing them that Eyes on the Prize documentary.)
But even that is better than the relationship with the past proposed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who believe that the lost lifestyle of plantation balls and pretending to be royalty is best honored by donning ridiculous costumes and faking that they don't understand the true causes of their prewar leisure:
At first I thought this next shot was a publicity still from a George Wallace drag musical.
But, no, that's really Wallace, the staunch segregationist, caught up in an afternoon of modeling new lipsticks.
Like the petticoat and cotillion past that the UDC profess to honor, most of the articles in their magazine are impossibly dull, usually due to a preoccupation with meaningless decorum:
Articles about Confederate history honor "Knightly Gentlemen" like Stonewall Jackson or the Indian-killer Lawrence Sullivan Ross. In "Robert E. Lee: The Educator" and "Jefferson Davis, Husband and Father," the UDC magazine illuminated every facet of the Confederacy's doomed heroes: noble goodness, noble goodness, and noble goodness, often expressed with a reverence as over the top as that Malory showed Arthur or Rolling Stone shows Mick Jagger solo records.
Here's a Faulknerian fantasy about the spirit of Davis rising from his tomb to walk the south on the day in 1978 when the man himself's U.S. citizenship was restored:
Seen only in the mind's eye, we recognize at once the dignified posture, the penetrating glance, and the slight bending of the shoulders reflecting, not the monstrous burden of tragedy and disappointment it had been his destiny to carry, but the ineluctable passage of time. By means beyond our understanding, his shadowy image was stirred by the knowledge that the cruel and continuing interdiction against him was at an end.
From later in the same piece:
Remembrance of the gathering clouds of the War for Southern Independence brought pain to his countenance.
Once in a while, the dreary politeness and memorializing, and the daughters lay bare the dark assumptions at the hear of their fantasies. "The 90th General Convention was held in Oklahoma, land of the 'Red People' and the cowboys," one article opens. Another is titled:
Here, Starke identifies a fresh source for what his magazine occasionally calls "The War for Southern Independence":
The people of the South had a totally different lifestyle from their neighbors in the North. The Southerner's slow and easy-going life was based on the ideal of love and enjoyment of his land as exemplified when he often related his natural surroundings to his daily occurrences.
The real trouble, according to Starke, was time.
The Yankee proverb "time is money" seemed monstrous and horrid to Dixielanders, and to some even incomprehensible.
Yes, "Time is money" is a godawful belief. Perhaps those Dixielanders found the notion especially odious for fear that someone might save up lots of time/money and buy away the slaves upon which every aspect of their easygoing civilization depended.
On that same page, Starke complains that the North viewed the South as a "colony for exploitation" and praises the South for its "diversity in geography, climate, occupation, and local culture." His are the most impressive Confederate Balls in any of these magazines: claiming the old south detested exploitation but celebrated diversity?
He goes so far as insisting that "One hesitates to say that slavery was even an underlying cause of the war but was mainly used as a cover to make many Northerners appear as liberators and champions of freedom."
That's one of only three times in five issues that I can find any use of the word "slavery."
Despite Starke's fallacies, it's rare that a man wrote a piece for the UDC magazine. The Daughters honored their men, of course, but their organization is run -- and in some ways concerned with -- women. In the south in the late '70s and early '80s, women were up to all sorts of great things, as this ad demonstrates:
Once you've let a woman embalm you, you'll wonder why you ever let a man.
I mean, look at how welcoming good Southern women can be!
Not pictured: Their secret belief that life would be ever so much better if it were black folks serving that punch.
Here are a couple other choice quotes from the Daughters:
In the May 1979 issue, Mrs. Ernest J. Meire, Jr., argues that Davis and his Confederacy had been forced into rebellion to spare its most vulnerable population:
The Southern white could either fight the oppressive North or kill its slaves.
The South could not afford to have its slaves freed to rise against their masters. There had been uprisings. There had been bloodshed.
A recommendation from the Executive Committee:
A rebuilt IBM electric typewriter be purchased for use by the Library Committee and that this be purchased by the Library Savings Account. (The President General explained that this was an emergency and would be ratified by the National Convention.)
In her monthly column, "The Whatnot," Ruth Davenport Deiss reports being "more than disgusted" to discover that no quotes from Jefferson Davis turn up in Bartlett's. "There are literally hundreds of quotations that would be a tremendous asset," she complains. While passionate, she resorts to crowd-sourcing her solution: "How does one go about seeing to it that some words of Jefferson Davis are added to such a book?"
A quote of Davis' that she proposes:
When Time shall have softened passion and prejudice; when reason shall have stripped the mask from misrepresentation; then Justice, holding evenly the scales, will require much of past censure and praise.
The upshot of that quote: "One day, everyone will understand that it's Confederate whites who got screwed most on this whole black-people-in-bondage thing."
Shocking Detail: More antebellum cosplay!
I think that last one has Jan Brewer in it.
Also, if you want to throw your own Dirty Dixie party, here's how to score your J. Davis swag.
Highlight: Here's an ad that only appears to be a commemoration of the birth of George W. Bush.
Actually, that's a house ad congratulating Texas on the honor of having a special issue of The United Daughters of the Confederacy Magazine dedicated to it, which is kind of like those weird times when a show that you're watching is interrupted with an ad for the show that you're watching. Or maybe it's like if Cosmo celebrated its sex issue by giving a tiara and cape to sex itself. It's weird, is what I'm saying.
In response, Mark White -- then that big ol' state's governor -- penned a letter that ran on that issue's back cover: "Since the Confederate flag was one of six to fly over our great state, the Confederacy had a significant historical impact on Texas. We are proud of that tradition."