During the Civil War thousands of women came to Washington, DC, to take part in a critical wartime experiment: women’s employment in the rapidly expanding federal government. The women who surged forward to demand jobs helped make the capital a proving ground for changing understandings of gender equality. This Grand Experiment presents a vivid account of female federal employees who sustained the wartime government and challenged women’s exclusion from public life, a story largely absent from the historiography. In this compelling book, Jessica Ziparo carefully teases out the ways female federal employees both conformed to and challenged nineteenth-century gender conventions and how those conventions determined much about women’s working lives. In so doing, This Grand Experiment provides new insight into a critical question of the Civil War era: why did wartime disruptions to gendered order fail to yield enduring changes to...

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