Emily Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet. Though very few poems were published before her death in 1886, she is considered one of the great American poets. She wrote close to 1800 works and historians say that her “writing years” were 1855-1865. That time period overlaps the civil war of 1861-1865, and the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. The war consisted of the Union and the Confederacy fighting over slavery. After many years of bloody battles, the confederacy fell which abolished slavery and began the reconstruction period of unity and rights for the free slaves.
Here is a photo of President Lincoln
What was the daily life like? It was much harder than today’s times and much more sexist. Meals were very large because everyone in the family had a job to do in order for the family to survive. The men and children did most of the physical labor, while the woman cooked, cleaned, and made clothes for the family. They would normally work from sun up to sun down, which gave them the most efficient time frame to work.
During the War, a lot of men were away fighting. A lot of women were left to run farms or businesses in their husband’s absences, or to take over men’s jobs. A lot of women were employed in government religious jobs in both the North and the South for instance. Many women went to the war as nurses, or organized essential supplies to be delivered to the troops. After the war was a period of turmoil in the south, with the slaves being freed and many leaving their old homes and jobs and moving away. Many southern plantation owners were desperate for labor. After the war was the time when the campaign for women’s suffrage really got underway, with women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan b. Anthony and Lucy Stone leading the campaign. Many people went west in this era, and it was an exciting and testing time for them as they struggled to make a life in a new place.
The historical content is important to Dickenson’s works because it gives the story lines a backbone. Without knowing that the civil war was during this time period, some of her works would be hard to understand. She was close with a few soldiers and many of them perished during the war. This hit Dickenson very hard and it is evident because most of her works were darker during that span.
Looking at how history played a role in her works, it appears that most of her subject matters could be the same. She wrote about losing friends in the war and that would apply today with the war in Afghanistan. She also wrote about her personal feeling on the war and the after effects of it. This would be slightly different, but it was share common traits between then and now. Dickenson had a “romantic attachment that some scholars believe drove Dickinson’s creative output” but the name of the man is unknown.
Some writers still compose works about personal relationships today, but I don’t think the quantity is as high as during Dickenson’s time. She also wrote about death and this part of her writing was focused mainly after her brother passed away. Almost all of Dickenson’s subjects are still relevant today even though there is roughly a 150-year gap.
Here is a short video of interesting facts about the Civil War and its time period.