Charlene M. Boyer Lewis is a professor of history and the director of the American studies program at Kalamazoo College. She specializes in women's history, southern history, and American cultural and social history in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She is the author of Ladies and Gentlemen on Display: Planter Society at the Virginia Springs, 1790–1860 (2001), which focuses on the creation of southern planter identity at Virginia mountain resorts, and Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte: An American Aristocrat in the Early Republic (2012), which examines one woman's active role in the debates over society and culture in the early republic. Her next project is a study of Peggy Shippen Arnold and revolutionary America.
This lecture will explore the architecture and surrounding man-made and natural landscapes of the Virginia Springs resorts in order to gain a deeper understanding of the values of elite southern society from the late 1700s through 1860. The built environment of the spas as well as the surrounding mountains, caves, and forests reaffirmed and, occasionally, challenged the hierarchical values and racial and gender definitions that formed the core of southern planter identity in the decades before the Civil War.