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Cover illustration of Harper's Weekly, September 7, 1861 showing a stereotypical Southern belle

A southern belle (derived from the French word belle, 'beautiful') is an archetype for a young woman of the American Old South's upper class.

During the period, Kentuckian Sallie Ward of Louisville was the most noted belle in the South, and her portrait, which hangs in the Speed Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, is often called "The Southern Belle." A Southern belle epitomized Southern hospitality, cultivation of beauty and a flirtatious yet chaste demeanor.

The archetype continues to have a powerful aspirational draw for many people, and books like We're Just Like You, Only Prettier, The Southern Belle Primer, and The Southern Belle Handbook are plentiful. Other current terms in popular culture related to "Southern belles" include "Ya Ya Sisters," "GRITS (Girls Raised In The South)," and "Sweet Potato Queens." Today, a Southern Belle is also another name for a débutante from the southern United States.


  • Seidel, Kathryn Lee (1985). The Southern Belle in the American Novel. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida. ISBN 0813008115. 
  • Farnham, Christie (1994). The Education of the Southern Belle. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0814726151. 
  • Flora, Joseph (2002). The Companion to Southern Literature. Baton Rouge. ISBN 0807126926. 
  • Perry, Carolyn (2002). The History of Southern Women's Literature. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0807127531. 

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de:Southern Belle ja:サザン・ベル