Paula Tarnapol Whitacre brings to life a 19th-century woman who faced issues still relevant today.

In the fall of 1862, Julia Wilbur left her family's farm near Rochester, New York, and boarded a train to Washington, DC. An ardent abolitionist, the 47-year-old Wilbur left a sad but stable life, headed toward the chaos of Civil War. She spent most of the next several years in Alexandria, VA, devising ways to aid recently escaped slaves and hospitalized Union soldiers, working closely with Harriet Jacobs and often battling the male establishment.

During Reconstruction, Wilbur worked for the Freedmen's Bureau. She then became one of the first generation of female government employees, working in the Patent Office, fighting for women's suffrage, and building a life for herself.

Based on diaries, letters, and other primary sources, A Civil Life in an Uncivil Time is the captivating story of a woman who remade herself at midlife during a period of massive social upheaval and change.


I urge everyone to pick up a copy and delve deeper into a chapter of Civil War history that has been overlooked for far too long.
— Lisa Wolfinger, Co-Creator & Executive Producer, PBS series Mercy Street

About the Book

Published by Potomac Books/U of Nebraska Press in September 2017.

Read the Blog

Bits that didn't make it into the book, background about Alexandria and Washington, and lots more.

Meet the Author

Let me tell you how I "found" Julia Wilbur & wrote a book about her life.