Child Journalists, the Civil War, and the Intersectional Work of Reporting Grief


  • Sara Danger



In 1864, editors of two nationally-circulating periodicals, Nellie Williams (aged 14) and her sisters, Allie and Mary (aged 12 and  17), reported that their only brother and Union Soldier, Leroy K. Williams, was missing in action.  Filtering personal trauma through the performative discourses of nineteenth-century journalism, these young writers publicised their anguish over their brother’s capture. The culturally-situated intersectional identities reflected in and contested by their reporting—as white Northerners, working-class youth, loyal sisters, and enterprising journalists—expose a kaleidoscope of fissures and collisions between private and public, silence and enunciation, gender and class, trauma and resilience. The resulting tensions illustrate the ways by which genres shaped, and were shaped by, children’s articulations of suffering for a national audience during wartime.


2021-12-24 — Updated on 2022-07-12