Elizabeth R. Varon’s essay on “Gender History and the Origins of the Civil War” provides a striking reappraisal of the rhetoric of the sectional conflict. In this excerpt, Varon provides an example of her argument by demonstrating how gendered phrases entered into the Wilmot Proviso debate. You can read Varon’s full essay inside the print edition of Volume 25 of the OAH Magazine of History (April 2011) or online via Oxford Journals.

Study Questions
1. Search for words in the online edition of American Slavery As It Is (1839) that might have provided evidence for the type of gendered charges leveled against abolitionists that Elizabeth Varon describes here.

2. Read some of the congressional debates over the Wilmot Proviso and War on Mexico that are available through the document links in this excerpt’s sidenotes. Does the tone and substance of the debates appear to support or challenge Varon’s emphasis on gendered rhetoric?

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