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Varina Anne “Winnie” Davis was born into a war-torn South in June of 1864, the youngest daughter of Confederate president Jefferson Davis and his second wife, Varina Howell Davis. Born only a month after the death of beloved Confederate hero general J.E.B. Stuart during a string of Confederate victories, Winnie’s birth was hailed as a blessing by war-weary Southerners. They felt her arrival was a good omen signifying future victory. But after the Confederacy’s ultimate defeat in the Civil War, Winnie would spend her early life as a genteel refugee and an expatriate abroad.
After returning to the South from German boarding school, Winnie was christened the “Daughter of the Confederacy” in 1886. This role was bestowed upon her by a Southern culture trying to sublimate its war losses. Particularly idolized by Confederate veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Winnie became an icon of the Lost Cause, eclipsing even her father Jefferson in popularity.
Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause is the first published biography of this little-known woman who unwittingly became the symbolic female figure of the defeated South. Her controversial engagement in 1890 to a Northerner lawyer whose grandfather was a famous abolitionist, and her later move to work as a writer in New York City, shocked her friends, family, and the Southern groups who worshipped her. Faced with the pressures of a community who violently rejected the match, Winnie desperately attempted to reconcile her prominent Old South history with her personal desire for tolerance and acceptance of her personal choices.
About the Author
Heath Hardage Lee is an independent historian, biographer, and curator. She is the author of The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took on the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home.
“Heath Hardage Lee does a masterful job of introducing the world to Winnie Davis, one of the most enigmatic figures in American history. . . . A terrific story, beautifully told.”—Ellen F. Brown, author of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood
— Ellen F. Brown
"Heath Lee has produced an engrossing, fast-paced account of one young woman's brush with a celebrity that she was unable to renounce."—Jane Turner Censer, Virginia Magazine
— Jane Turner Censer
“Heath Hardage Lee has captured thoroughly the tale of the shy, unassuming [Winnie Davis] who was involuntarily thrust into a role as an icon for the defeated South.”—James McGrath Morris, author of Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power
— James McGrath Morris
“[Lee’s] recurring use of loss as a unifying theme effectively engages the reader and places Winnie Davis firmly within the context of both her family and the Lost Cause.”—Casey O. Shellman, Journal of Southern History
— Casey O. Shellman
"Lee makes the most of Davis' brief life and accomplishments by grounding her subject firmly in historical context."—Margaret Flanagan, Booklist
— Margaret Flanagan
“Can there be any major Civil War story that we haven’t heard? The answer is, yes! Here comes Heath Lee with the fascinating—and surprising—life of Varina Anne ‘Winnie’ Davis. . . . Clear, strong writing brings the history, mores, and manners of the day brilliantly to life.”—Lee Smith, author of Guests on Earth and Fair and Tender Ladies
— Lee Smith
“Heath Lee has written a beautiful and thoughtful biography of Winnie Davis. . . . This is, in a sense, a biography of America in the aftermath of a civil war as much as it is a captivating story of a young woman who struggled to preserve her individuality when others elevated her to an icon.”—Carol Berkin, author of Civil War Wives and Wondrous Beauty
— Carol Berkin
“Heath Lee tells this tale with simple elegance and matter-of-fact sensitivity. She makes you understand that neither of Winnie Davis’s two worlds—the languor of the Mississippi Gulf Coast or the hustle of downtown New York—would ever bring her peace.”—Guy Gugliotta, author of Freedom’s Cap: The United States Capitol and the Coming of the Civil War
— Guy Gugliotta
"A fascinating story of a woman who sought to reconcile her own family history with her own beliefs in the virtues of tolerance, Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause is highly recommended especially for personal and public library biography collections."—Midwest Book Review
— Midwest Book Review