Booked for Lunch looks at the first lady of the South

Varina Howell, shown on her wedding day in 1845 with husband Jefferson Davis, is the subject of discussion at Booked for Lunch, May 26, at the Wilton Historical Society.

Varina Howell, shown on her wedding day in 1845 with husband Jefferson Davis, is the subject of discussion at Booked for Lunch, May 26, at the Wilton Historical Society.

Varina Davis, wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, is the subject of the next meeting of the Wilton Historical Society’s reading group, Booked for Lunch, which will gather Tuesday, May 26, from noon to 1:30.

The event is a brown bag lunch, with the society providing beverages and dessert.  The community is welcome.

The book to be discussed is First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis’s Civil War by Joan E. Cashin.

When Jefferson Davis became president of the Confederacy, his wife, Varina Howell Davis, reluctantly became the first lady. A century after her death in 1906, Cashin has written the first definitive biography of this modern, but deeply conflicted woman.

Pro-slavery but also pro-Union, Davis was inhibited by her role during the Civil War.

After the war, she endured financial woes and the loss of several children, but following her husband’s death in 1889, she moved to New York and began a career in journalism. Here she advocated reconciliation between the North and South and became friends with Julia Grant, the widow of Ulysses S. Grant.

She shocked many by declaring in a newspaper that it was God’s will the North won the war.

Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post wrote, “Cashin’s book leaves no doubt that [Varina Davis] was in fact a considerably more interesting person than her husband, and a better one as well.”

The book won the Fletcher Pratt Literary Award for Best Nonfiction Book, Civil War Roundtable of New York, and was a finalist for the Jefferson Davis Award from the Museum of the Confederacy.

Information: wiltonhistorical.org.

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