An associate professor of history at the University of California, San Diego, Rebecca Jo Plant is the author of Mom: The Transformation of Motherhood in Modern America (2010) and a coeditor of Maternalism Reconsidered: Motherhood, Welfare, and Social Policies in the Twentieth Century (2012). Her research interests include women's, gender, and family history; the history of therapeutic culture and the psychological professions; and the social and psychological impact of war in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century United States. She has held fellowships from the American Association of University Women, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the American Council for Learned Societies, and the Australian Research Council. With Frances M. Clarke, she coauthored "'The Crowning Insult': Federal Segregation and the Gold Star Mothers Pilgrimages of the Early 1930s," which appeared in the Journal of American History in 2015 and was awarded the Association of Black Women Historians' Letitia Woods Brown Article Prize and the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians' Article Prize for the best article in the field of the history of women, gender, or sexuality. She and Clarke are currently collaborating on a new project about underage soldiers during the American Civil War.
Underage soldiers who fought in the American Civil War have long been a subject of fascination. But so far, this topic has mostly been taken up by writers of juvenile fiction or popular history interested in celebrating the heroism or contributions of young people in uniform. By instead focusing on the political, military, and legal debates over young enlistees in both the Union and Confederacy, this lecture explores how the problem of youth enlistment intersected with larger issues, including the relationship between parental rights and children’s obligations, the appropriate balance of power between state and federal governments, and the degree to which the military should be answerable to local communities.