Jane Turner Censer

Jane Turner Censer

Jane Turner Censer

Emeritus Faculty

U.S. History: 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. 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. In 2017-18 she served as president of the Southern Historical Association.

Many of her publications have 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, examined 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's most recent book, The Princess of Albemarle: Amélie Rives, Author and Celebrity at the Fin de Siècle (University of Virginia Press, spring 2022), explores the life of Amélie Rives, a Virginia author best known for her beauty, tumultuous personal life, and a scandalous best seller. After her career was derailed by marital woes and opiate addiction, Rives divorced her husband (and married a Russian prince), remade her image, and resumed her writing career, including plays produced on Broadway. Her saga provides insights into the limits imposed on and the possibilities open to ambitious young women in the late nineteenth-century South; it also illustrates how interest in literary figures predated the modern obsession with popular culture stars.

Praised by reviewers as "carefully researched and highly readable," The Princess of Albemarle was awarded the Richard Slatten prize of 2022 for excellence in Virginia biography,

Selected Publications

The Princess of Albemarle: Amélie Rives, Author and Celebrity at the Fin de Siècle. Charlottesville: University of Virginia, 2022.

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.

""The Southern Lady and the Northern Publishers: A Tumultuous Relationship," Journal of Southern History 85 (2019): 7-32.

"The Gift of Friendship: Ellen Glasgow and Amélie Rives, Virginia Writers," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 124 (2016):99-133.

“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 History 76 (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.

“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


Recent Presentations

"Becoming an Author: Amélie Rives's Audacious Entry into Publishing," Virginia Museum of History and Culture, April 28, 2022

"The Southern Lady and the Northern Publishers: A Tumultuous Relationship," Presidential Address, Southern Historical Association, Nov. 9, 2018

Plenary Session, "The Confederacy, Its Symbols, and the Politics of Public Culture," 130th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association, Jan. 7, 2016.

"Reconstruction's Sesquicentennial: The State of Public History" Round Table Presentation, Southern Historical Association Annual Meeting, Nov. 2015.

“Women in Reconstruction,” invited lecture at After the War: A Prince William County/Manassas Civil War Symposium, May 16, 2015

"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.

“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.


Dissertations Supervised

Sheri Huerta, "A Great Uneasiness In Our County": Slavery and Its Influence on Family and Community Stability in Northern Virginia, 1782-1860 (2017)

Curtis Vaughn, Freedom Is Not Enough: African Americans in Antebellum Fairfax County (2014)

Stephen Sledge, The Bitter Fruit of Secession: Union Army Occupation and Reconstruction on the Virginia Peninsula (2012)

Benjamin Huggins, Republican Principles, Opposition Revolutions, and Southern Whigs: Nathaniel Macon, Willie Mangum, and the Course of North Carolina Politics, 1800-1853 (2008)