Ladies and Gentlemen on Display
Each summer between 1790 and 1860, hundreds and eventually thousands of southern menand women left the diseases and boredom of their plantation homes and journeyed to the healthful andentertaining Virginia Springs. While some came in search of a cure, most traveled over the mountainsto enjoy the fashionable society and participate in an array of socialactivities. At the springs, visitors, as well as their slaves,interacted with one another and engaged in behavior quite different from the picture presented bymost historians. In the leisurely and pleasure-filled environment of the springs, plantationsociety's hierarchies became at once more relaxed and more contested, its rituals and rulessometimes changed and reformed, and its gender divisions often softened andblurred.In Ladies and Gentlemen on Display, Charlene Boyer Lewis argues that theVirginia Springs provided a theater of sorts, where contests for power between men and women,fashionables and evangelicals, blacks and whites, old and young, and even northerners andsoutherners played out-away from the traditional roles of the plantation. In their pursuit ofhealth and pleasure, white southerners created a truly regional community at the springs. At thisedge of the South, elite southern society shaped itself, defining what it meant to be a ",Southerner",and redefining social roles and relations.
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