Civil War Speaker Series

Spring 2024

"Love and Duty: Confederate Widows and the Emotional Politics of Loss"

with Dr. Angela Esco Elder, Associate Professor of History at Converse College

Date: Thursday, April 11, 2024

Time: 6-7:30 p.m.

Format: In Person

Location: Room 114, Belk Library and Information Commons

Description: "Love and Duty: Confederate Widows and the Emotional Politics of Loss" will analyze how women in the South responded to the loss of their husbands in the Civil War. Between 1861 and 1865, approximately 200,000 women were widowed by the deaths of Civil War soldiers. They recorded their experiences in diaries, letters, scrapbooks, and pension applications. Dr. Angela Esco Elder draws on these materials—as well as songs, literary works, and material objects like mourning gowns—to explore white Confederate widows’ stories, examining the records of their courtships, marriages, loves, and losses to understand their complicated relationship with the Confederate state. Elder shows how, in losing their husbands, many women acquired significant cultural capital, which positioned them as unlikely actors to gain political influence. They used that influence to turn mourning into a highly politicized act amid the post-war battle to establish the Confederacy’s legitimacy.

Details: This event is free and open to the public. For a disability accommodation, visit

Host: The Appalachian State University Department of History and the College of Arts and Sciences

Questions? Please contact Dr. Judkin Browning, professor of history, at or (828) 262-6022.

For more information, see

About the Speaker

Dr. Angela Esco Elder

Dr. Angela Esco Elder is an Associate Professor of History at Converse University. After graduating from the University of Georgia with a Ph.D in History, she became the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies postdoctoral fellow at Virginia Tech. Her dissertation, which explored the experience of Confederate widowhood, won the Southern Historical Association’s C. Vann Woodward Dissertation Prize and St. George Tucker Society’s Melvin E. Bradford Dissertation Prize in 2017.

At Converse, she teaches a variety of American history courses, including her specialty in the Civil War and women’s history, and unique courses like “Duels, Disease, and Disaster: Death in 19th Century America.” Dr. Elder sees great value in learning through hands-on experiences, with pedagogy like Reacting to the Past. In 2018, students awarded her the Faculty Involvement and Collaboration Award, in recognition of her commitment to the core values of Converse College. In 2019, she received the Joe Ann Lever Award of Excellence and in 2021, the SCICU Teaching Excellence Award.

When she isn’t lost in stories of the American past, Dr. Elder enjoys cooking and traveling with her husband and children.

Founding the Series

These events are part of the Civil War Speaker Series in the Department of History, housed in the College of Arts and Sciences at Appalachian State University. Dr. Judkin Browning, Professor of Civil War and Military History, designed the Series for scholars to give presentations on different aspects of the Civil War, helping the general public and campus community view and understand the conflict through new prisms.

For questions, contact Dr. Browning at or (828) 262-6022.

About the Civil War Speaker Series

The Civil War Speaker Series furthers the College of Arts and Sciences mission of fostering the development of knowledge and skills essential to continued learning, as well as cultivating habits of inquiry. The U.S. Civil War is perhaps the most popular American history topic among the general public—judging by book sales, TV programs and internet searches. However, interpretations of that conflict are undergoing constant permutations, forever influenced by what’s happening in our own society (see the explosion of works on military occupation and guerrilla warfare since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003). 

These speakers allow the campus community and the greater community to learn more about current historical interpretations as well as expose them to new and creative ways of understanding the war and its aftermath. They will see that the war is about far more than Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, and that these scholars open up new windows of opportunity to grapple with the issues of a war whose legacy we are still dealing with today. 
This series advances our College’s vision, particularly “to engage more of the public in the enterprise of higher education and to help a larger public understand the significance of broad-based education anchored in a tradition of the liberal arts.”