A Southern Woman's Story is the inaugural volume in the University of South Carolina Press's new paperback series, American Civil War Classics. First published in 1879, the book chronicles Phoebe Pember's experiences as matron of the Confederate Chimborazo Hospital from November 1862 until the fall of Richmond in April 1865. Long an important source in Confederate history, A Southern Woman's Story is also a valuable book for students and scholars of women's history and the social history of the Civil War. In many ways Phoebe Yates Pember (1823-1913) was a representative upper-class gentlewoman. Daughter of a Jewish merchant of Charleston who moved his family to Savannah in the 1850s, she sought ways to help the Southern cause but she broke all stereotypes by the character and length of her service. Widowed and childless in 1861, Pember took the post of matron at the Confederate Army's Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. She labored there throughout the war and later recorded her experiences in A Southern Woman's Story. No dilettante's romance or saccharine Lost Cause tale, it is a remarkably frank treatment of Confederate social and medical history. Pember reports on the gossip and scandals from inside the Confederacy's largest hospital and the embattled city of Richmond, presenting bureaucratic personalities and stock characters with insight and humor.
GEORGE C. RABLE is the Charles G. Summersell Professor of Southern History at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. He is the author of The Confederate Republic: a Revolution Against Politics (1994), and his Civil Wars: Women and the Crisis of Southern Nationalism won the 1989 Jefferson Davis Award and 1991 Julia Cherry Spruill Prize.