History and Art History

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Jane Turner Censer

Jane Turner Censer

Jane Turner Censer

Professor

19th century U.S.; American South; women, gender, and family in the U.S.

A specialist on the nineteenth-century United States, Jane Turner Censer joined the George Mason history faculty in 1989. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Johns Hopkins University. As a historical editor, she edited volumes four and six of the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers, (Defending the Union: The Civil War and the U.S. Sanitary Commission, 1861-1863 and The Years of Olmsted, Vaux & Company, 1865-1874). Her essays and prize winning articles have appeared in numerous journals including the Journal of Southern History, Comparative Studies in Society and History, American Journal of Legal History, Southern Cultures, and American Quarterly. A fellow at the National Humanities Center, she also has received research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Virginia Historical Society, and the American Council of Learned Societies.

Much of her recent work has focused on southern women. She edited and wrote an introduction for Sherwood Bonner’s Like unto Like, a feminist novel about the Reconstruction South, re-published by the University of South Carolina Press as part of its “Southern Classics” series. Her book, The Reconstruction of White Southern Womanhood, 1865-1895, published in 2003, explored the social and cultural changes wrought by the Civil War among privileged women in North Carolina and Virginia. Articles from that research also won two prizes, including the prize for the best article in southern women’s history.

Current Research

Professor Censer continues to pursue an interest in women and gender  in the nineteenth- century South. Her article, “Mary Bayard Clarke’s Plain-Folk Humor: Writing Women into the Literature and Politics of Reconstruction,” appeared in the May 2010 issue of the Journal of Southern History. She is currently at work on a book about Amélie Rives, a Virginia author best known for her scandalous personal life and best-selling novel. Tentatively entitled “Amélie Rives: Celebrity, Authorship, and the Southern Woman,” this project explores important alterations in gender relations as well as the changes in courtship and the representation of feminine beauty. Rives’s career also illuminates the growing cult of celebrity and the South’s participation in a changing world of American literature and culture.

Selected Publications

The Reconstruction of White Southern Womanhood, 1865‑1895. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003.

North Carolina Planters and Their Children, 1800‑1860. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1984; paperback edition 1990.

Like Unto Like: A Novel by Sherwood Bonner. Edited with an introduction. (Southern Classics series) Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1997.

Defending the Union: The Civil War and the U.S. Sanitary Commission, 1861‑1863. Edited with an introduction. (Volume 4 of The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted.) Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986.

The Years of Olmsted, Vaux and Company, 1865‑1874. Co-edited with an introduction. (Volume 6 of The Papers of Frederick Law Olmsted.) Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

“Finding the Southern Family in the Civil War: A Review Essay,” Journal of Social History (Fall 2012), 1-12.

“Mary Bayard Clarke’s Plain-Folk Humor: Writing Women into the Literature and Politics of Reconstruction,” Journal of Southern History76 (May 2010): 241-74

“Re-imagining the North-South Reunion: Southern Women Novelists and the Intersectional Romance, 1876-1900,” Southern Cultures 5 (Summer 1999): 64-91.

“A Changing World of Work: North Carolina Elite Women, 1865‑1895,” North Carolina Historical Review 73 (Jan. 1996): 28-55. Reprinted in J. William Harris, Ed., The New South: New Histories(New York, 2008), 43-66.

“Videobites: Ken Burns’s ‘The Civil War’ in the Classroom,” American Quarterly 44 (June 1992): 244‑54.

“Southwestern Migration among North Carolina Planter Families: ‘The Disposition to Migrate,’” Journal of Southern History 57 (August 1991): 407‑26.

“‘Smiling Through her Tears’: Ante‑bellum Southern Women and Divorce,” American Journal of Legal History 25 (January 1981): 24‑47. Reprinted in Nancy F. Cott, ed., History of Women in the United States: Historical Articles on Women’s Lives and Activities, 20 vols. (Munich and London, 1992), 3: 34-55.

 

Courses Taught

History 811: Doctoral Research Seminar in History

History 711: Research Seminar in U.S. History: Antebellum America, 1815-1861

History 633: The Era of Reconstruction, 1863‑1880

History 618: The Age of Jackson, 1815-1854

History 615: Problems in U.S. History: History of Private Life in the United States

History 615: Problems in U.S. History: The Antebellum South, 1780‑1861 

History 350: History of Women in the United States

History 351: History of the Old South

History 404: Jacksonian America, 1815-1854

History 499:  Research Seminar on Nineteenth Century United States

 

Dissertations Supervised

Benjamin Huggins, “Republican Principles, Opposition Revolutions, and Southern Whigs: Nathaniel Macon, Willie Mangum, and the Course of North Carolina Politics, 1800–1853,” (Jan. 2009).

Stephen B. Sledge, “The Bitter Fruit of Secession: The Union Army’s Wartime Occupation of Southeastern Virginia” (May 2012)

Curtis Vaughn, "Freedom is Not Enough: Free African Americans in Antebellum Fairfax County, Virginia" (in progress)

Recent Presentations

"Heroines and Farm Women in Civil War Era North Carolina," Tar River Center for History and Culture, Louisburg College, April 3, 2014.

"Caught between Two Centuries: Virginia Female Authors," Invited Presentation at Annual Scholar's Lecture, Women and Gender Studies, George Mason University, Nov. 11, 2013.

Before the Red Cross: Soldier Relief Efforts by the U.S. Sanitary and U.S. Christian Commissions,” Historic Blenheim and Civil War Interpretive Center (Fairfax, VA), Oct. 27, 2012.

“Women and the Homefront in Civil War North Carolina,” Cape Fear Museum, February 21, 2012. 

“Finding the Family in the American Civil War.”  Invited Paper presented at the conference, Civil Wars and the American Civil War, Hebrew University (Jerusalem), June1-2, 2011.