Alison Hardy from Window Woman of New England joins me to discuss the state of window restoration.  If you’d ever wondered what preservationist discuss this episode is for you.  We discuss:

  • Can your windows be saved or are they really beyond repair?
  • Repair vs. Replacement mindset
  • The education process to combat the replacement window marketing machine

Contact information for Alison plus additional resources:

Alison Hardy – Window Woman of New England

978-532-2070

https://windowpreservationalliance.org/

Bio:
Alison Hardy is owner of Window Woman of New England, Inc. Her company restores windows in the North of Boston/Merrimac Valley region. Alison has a BA from Denison University and an MBA from Boston University, only some of which is useful when scraping paint. When not restoring windows for other people she works on restoring her 1850’s farmhouse in Topsfield, MA.

Transcript:

Speaker 1: Thank you for tuning in to the Practical Preservation podcast. Please take a moment to visit our website practicalpreservationservices.com for additional information and tips to help you restore your historical home. If you’ve not yet done so, please subscribe to us on iTunes, Stitcher, and Sound Cloud. Also like us on Facebook.

Speaker 1: Welcome to the Practical Preservation podcast hosted by Danielle Keperling. Keperling Preservation Services is a family owned business based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania dedicated to the preservation of our built architectural history for today’s use, as well as future generations. Our weekly podcast provides you with expert advice specific to the unique needs of renovating a historic home. Educating by sharing our from the trenches preservation knowledge, and our guest’s expertise balancing modern needs while maintaining the historical significance, character, and beauty of your period home.

Danielle: Thank you for joining us for the Practical Preservation podcast. Today, we have Alison Hardy. She is the owner of Window Woman of New England, Incorporated. Her company restores windows in the north of Boston Merrimack Valley region. Alison has a BA from Denison University and an MBA from Boston University, only some of which is useful when scraping paint. When not restoring windows for other people, she works on restoring her 1850s farmhouse house in Topsfield, Massachusetts. Alison, thank you for joining us.

Alison: Thank you for inviting me, Danielle.

Danielle: Thank you. I know that we have met in person a couple of times, so I’m excited to have you here to share your knowledge and expertise. How did you get started in preservation? It kind of sounds like it was a meandering road, similar to mine.

Alison: Indeed, this is about my third career. I actually trained to do textile design and costume design and did that for many years, and sold large format printers for printing textiles. Then when my husband and I bought an old house, suddenly like most people in preservation, you start looking at your old house and appreciating your old house and getting interested in old houses. It really came about from owning a wreck of a house with windows in terrible condition. I said, “This is crazy. I must be able to fix these somehow.”

Danielle: Very good. Did you start at restoring your windows yourself? Did you learn yourself or did you take some classes? How did you figure out what you needed to do?

Alison: I am self-taught. Luckily, my husband builds furniture as a hobby, so he had a wood shop which was very handy. Then I am one of those people who will just go out and research a project to death, so I read as much as I could, went to some events on preservation and talked to as many people as I could, and just started chipping away at paint and figuring out how to re-putty a window, which is daunting at first, but after you do a couple hundred you get really good at it.

Danielle: Right, we joked that people, if they’re going to try to do it their selves should start in the back of the house.

Alison: Definitely, definitely somewhere you don’t want to see. In fact, the house that we’re in now, the first windows that I did are embarrassing.

Danielle: Oh no.

Alison: They’re my walk of shame every day. I’m like, “Oh, I really should redo those,” because I just didn’t have the patience for getting all of the paint off and doing all of the repair techniques that now we do.

Danielle: Right, and the little details do matter. We try to impart that, too, to our employees. That, just because you’re scraping paint doesn’t mean that that’s not one of the most important things that you’re doing on this window.

Alison: True, and it’s funny, we just had a batch of windows come in that had been scraped by an abatement company, and my crew was horrified at how badly they were done. I’m like, “Well, that’s why we insist on being neat and tidy and doing things so that you don’t harm the window, you actually make it better.”

Danielle: Yes, yes. Important lessons. How did you get started then selling your services to the public?

Alison: Well, funny enough, a friend of ours bought an apartment building in a town not far from us and said, “It’s got a bunch of windows in horrible shape. Do you want to tackle those?” I thought, “Sure, why not? I’ll give you a hand.” Which, turned out to be a huge project. I’ve never seen so much nicotine on a window in my life. That was sort of the cutting teeth to, yes I think I can do this for other people.

Alison: Then, you know, God bless America, you can hang out a shingle and start a business. That’s pretty much what I did and started off with some projects for friends, and then those friends knew other people. The good thing about the old house world is that they all talk to each other about products and services and suppliers. Luckily the word got out quickly.

Danielle: Right, that’s one thing I’ve noticed too is that, people are very willing to share their knowledge and information, which is very helpful. You know, even contractors and crafts people, they will share the information because it’s not, even though you might be a competitor, everybody is working towards the same goal.

Alison: It seems like once you find people who cherish older houses and older buildings, we want to support those businesses and we want to let other people know that this is a contractor or somebody who gets old houses just like we do, instead of the “rip them apart and make them into planned cottages.”

Danielle: Yeah, that kind of takes us into my next question. Why do you preserve windows? What makes you passionate about this?

Alison: I do so many estimates now, and it’s always amazing to me the condition of older original windows. You know, to somebody who’s not as observant as I am about windows, they may look terrible. The paint’s peeling, the glazing’s falling off, but to me, I’m like, “But look at the corners and the joints. They’re still in really good shape. They’re still beautifully built. They’re still serving their function. They fit the building. If we just do a little bit of repairs to them, they’ll be beautiful again.” It’s exciting, because most people who call me in kind of know that in the back of their mind, so it’s a validation of saying, “I thought they looked pretty good.” I’m like, “Yes, they are really good. Let’s save them.”

Danielle: Yes, you don’t have to listen to the person that told you, you just need to get new windows.

Alison: Right, I always use the analogy, if you got a flat tire, would somebody say you had to throw out the car and get a new one? It’s the same thing. You have a broken sash, it’s not the end of the world. It can be fixed.

Danielle: Right, right, very, very true. Since you kind of have been learning as you go, what do you wish that you knew when you started that you know now?

Alison: I think if I had any idea how much time was required for doing windows, I probably would have been terrified. You have to acknowledge that it’s a very labor intensive process and there’s not many shortcuts. If you do take shortcuts, it usually ends up costing you in the long run. I think if I really had thought about how much time was involved, I probably would have had a different idea.

Danielle: Yes. That’s true, and that’s one thing that I’ve been trying to explain to people. The majority of our cost is labor. We’re paying people to do this work.

Alison: Yes, glass isn’t a big of expense, wood isn’t a big expense, it’s just the people.

Danielle: Right, right. Have you made any major mistakes that you’re willing to make a public confession about?

Alison: I think undercharging in the beginning made my life a lot more difficult. Once you start charging fairly, your life gets a little bit better.

Danielle: That is really true, and from a business standpoint, that’s I think pretty typical for people who, especially are doing the hands on work, they do undervalue the contributions that they’re making.

Alison: It’s true. It’s hard to believe that people don’t really know what kind of value and cost to assign to window repairs. They know what replacement windows cost if they’ve been shopping around, but they really don’t know, and so it’s up to us to give a fair price. That we know how much time it’s going to take and we know what we need to do to get it done right, and it’s going to cost. It’s not a cheap process. We try to be as efficient as we can, but at the end of the day it’s still labor hours.

Danielle: Right, yeah.

Alison: I have to say, yeah, the other big mistake that I am always teetering on the edge of is I got asked to look at a project and the client said, “Well, you know, I had your competitor work on my last house and I don’t want to have them back.” I get all puffed up and go, “Yes, because we’re better.” It turns out that that’s a very bad mistake, because they’re usually very bad clients. I’ve learned to not get my ego all puffed up and think that we’re better than the other guy. No, sometimes they’re just bad clients.

Danielle: Yeah, and that’s true. Sometimes you do have to kind of see those warning signs and see how the development process goes before you make a commitment to them.

Alison: Yeah.

Danielle: What is the biggest challenge that you see in preservation, or even just in your corner of preservation?

Alison: I know, my very tiny corner of windows. Really, the hard thing is awareness. I can’t tell you how many times people say, “I had no idea anybody did this type of work. I had no idea anybody did this type of work.” It’s frustrating because we don’t have the big advertising budgets of the large replacement companies. We’re very small voices out in the world and it’s hard to get the message out there. I think that’s why we’re so grateful to word of mouth, is that that’s the most efficient way we can to spread the message, but it’s slow and painful and there’s nothing worse than finding out that somebody replaced their windows unnecessarily because they just had no idea that they had an option.

Danielle: That’s very true. We’re fighting the mentality of the past 50 or 60 years of being product installers rather than crafts people too, and looking at it as something that’s repairable rather than just having to replace it. All of that has been pushed by advertising. That is a very big challenge within preservation.

Alison: I think we all sort of cringe at the TV shows that people just take sledgehammers to buildings without even stopping to think about it, or at least not on camera they stop to think about it. It’s so maddening as a preservationist. You know, “Why are they just taking it down in the most destructive way possible? You can take a cabinet off a wall without having to take a sledgehammer to it.” It just drives me crazy.

Danielle: Right, it wouldn’t be as good TV.

Alison: Yeah, right?

Danielle: Do you see any trends in preservation? Any maybe glimmers of hope?

Alison: You know, I have been doing some estimates recently for young couples who are buying their first house and I keep hearing this, “I want to do it right. I want to be real. I grew up in a house with vinyl windows, I grew up in a house with vinyl siding and I don’t want my children to grow up in that kind of house.” I think this whole makers movement, you know, people wanting to get their hands dirty and to do projects and to build things is very encouraging, because once you do get your hands on something, then you start to appreciate it more. That, to me, has been exciting to hear people talk about they want to save things instead of throwing them away. I’m like, “Thank you, finally we’re getting to that point where we understand how bad all of the debris we create is.”

Danielle: Yes, yes, and I think it is values and it’s a mentality because I’ll even take shoes to get fixed and clothes to the tailor. It is, it’s a different mentality of you don’t have to just go out and get new, you can fix what you have, especially if you have a good quality. Then it’s really not more expensive, because you’re not paying it over and over again.

Alison: Right. We’ve had great success of going to some of the green fairs, even a lot of events that focus on local and sustainable foods, because that same mentality carries forward into your house. If you don’t want to eat fake food, why do you want to have fake windows? There’s a continuum here that it all sort of makes sense. Why would you want to create acres of trash and then demolish parts of your house unnecessarily? It all kind of goes together.

Danielle: It does, yeah, that’s very true. How do you keep up with trends in preservation?

Alison: I love to go to events. I think that’s probably the hardest thing for a lot of people who are working in the trades, is that they don’t have big travel budgets and they can’t get out to things. Making an effort to go and meet with fellow preservationists, we just had a wonderful meeting in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in February with the Window Preservation Alliance. This is a trade group that was formed two, three years ago now to bring together window restorers to raise awareness of window restoration, that we actually got started because there was a preservation conference that had one of the big replacement window contractors as a sponsor.

Danielle: Oh, yes.

Alison: We said, “This is crazy. How can we represent our side of the argument when we don’t even have a seat at the table?” The Window Preservation Alliance, we’re a trade association so we now have funds so that we can sponsor events so that we have the other side of the argument, we’re at the table so that we can be part of those discussions. It’s exciting how we’re finding more events, we’re helping to sponsor events.

Alison: There’s one coming up in Cincinnati in May that I’m going to where we’re going to be restoring windows in two buildings. There is one in San Antonio coming up. Then in September in Detroit the Preservation Trade Network will be putting on an event too, so I’m excited about the number of opportunities that we have to meet with one another and talk about what we do. We’re kind of an obscure little profession here, and it’s nice to meet other people who know what you’re talking about.

Danielle: Yes, and that’s exciting that you’re going all over the country. I wouldn’t necessarily think of restoring windows in Texas. There are buildings there that have windows to be restored, so that’s going kind of off of what people would necessarily would think about would be where the historic places are.

Alison: It’s nice that they are people who do this for a living mixed in with community people, because a lot of times homeowners do want to learn how to do things, how to get involved, but they don’t necessarily want to tackle the whole project. As my colleague Steve [Coullion 00:16:23] calls it, “The pros and the Joes working together,” we get a lot more done in a short period of time.

Danielle: Yeah, very, very exciting. That also helps build awareness in the community that there are other options. I know my mom used to sit on the Historic Commission here in Lancaster City, and people would come in wanting to put vinyl windows in, and they would say, “Well, there are other options,” and people would say, “No, there aren’t.” Then it’s a whole education process. That’s a way to do it before even those decisions are being made. That is very, very exciting. Do you have a favorite resource?

Alison: Since May is preservation month, last year was the first year we tried to get all members of the Window Preservation Alliance to hold an event for preservation month. We did one called a sash revival, so we encouraged people to bring in their windows, which most of them have broken glass, and we showed them how to cut glass, fit glass, and glaze a window. It was a really fun event. My crew had a great time working with people. Most of them came from the next town over, which has a fabulous collection of old houses.

Alison: There were actually events all across the country and we’re hoping to do that again this year in May. We had everything from, they did a driveway pop up, they just put a tent in their driveway and had people work on glazing windows. Somebody had a booth at a farmer’s market talking about window repairs. Then some people like me opening up their shop to have the public come in and learn more about what we do and actually get their hands on a window. It’s really fun to have events like that to, again, trying to raise awareness of what we do.

Danielle: Yes, that sounds like fun. To tie it into the national trust, making their whole push for preservation too for that month, it helps build awareness on multiple fronts, so I think that’s really great and exciting. I’m kind of sad that I didn’t think of it.

Alison: Some days you just have, and again, a lot of times it’s just hanging out talking to our other fellow window restorers going, “How can we do this?”

Danielle: Right.

Alison: “Well, what if we just had people bring in windows?”

Danielle: We’ve even had classes before, but we never had people bring their own windows in, but that makes so much more sense. Then they leave with something that’s done. They don’t have to go back and kind of tackle it themselves.

Alison: I was trying to do the sad face/happy face as people came in and left, but I didn’t do so good at capturing my photographs. It was nice to be able to have something they accomplished in one day.

Danielle: Yes, yes, yes, and it makes it a little bit less daunting I would think for them. They know that they can at least, if a pane of glass breaks, they know that they can fix that and it doesn’t take all day.

Alison: Right. I think we’ve all had the frustrating experience of trying to get glazing putty to look neat. We’ve got a couple tips and techniques that we can show people to get them over that frustrating stage of, “It’s just all goopy and it keeps pulling up and it makes a lumpy mess.”

Danielle: Right.

Alison: I don’t know what to say. We’ll help you.

Danielle: This will make it easier.

Alison: Right.

Danielle: What do you think makes you different from other businesses that do this work?

Alison: You know, I’m finding there’s more similarities than dissimilarities in what we do. We’ve become one of the larger shops. I have 10 employees, and so we’re able to tackle bigger projects. I think we’re also fortunate that in the Boston area there are a number of window restoration shops, so if we have a really huge project, we can divvy it up and all work together. It’s very much a collaborative type of business, which is great. It makes it much more fun than being a competitor.

Danielle: Right, yeah, I definitely agree with that. Okay, well thank you so much for joining us today. Why don’t you let us know how our audience can get a hold of you.

Alison: Probably the best way is through our website, which is window-woman-ne.com. There is a contact us page which has our email address on it, or you can always call the workshop at 978-532-2070.

Danielle: Very good, thank you.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening to the Practical Preservation podcast. The resources discussed during this episode are on our website at practicalpreservationservices.com/podcast. If you received value from this episode and know someone else that would get value from it as well, please share it with them. Join us next week for another episode of the Practical Preservation podcast. For more information on restoring your historic home, visit us at practicalpreservationservices.com.

 

Earlier this year we promised to provide you with regular posts on primary resources for the Civil War in honor of the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War.  But life happens, and we’ve had an awful lot of “life” happening here in the office lately, so we haven’t been very regular.  We’re hoping to get more regular with these posts again now, but we’re not going to promise this time! Maybe we can offer you a “we’ll try as hard as we can”?

For this post, we’re taking a look at the battle of Fort Sumter through the eyes of Mary Boykin Miller – to whom we owe a tremendous debt for providing us for such rich insight into the Civil War at a time when recording history-in-the-making for posterity was difficult to do.  Literary critics have called Chesnut’s diary “a work of art” and the most important work by a Confederate author.

Who was Mary Boykin Miller?

mary boykin miller, civil war, civil war 150th anniversary, civil war diaries, civil war primary resources, civil war sesquicentennial, fort sumter, mary chesnut, women's historyMary Boykin Miller was born March 31, 1823 in the High Hills of Santee, South Carolina.  At the age of 17 she married James Chesnut, a prominent lawyer and politician who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1858, and went on to serve the Confederacy as an aide to Jefferson Davis and as a brigadier general.  The Chesnuts moved in the very highest circles of Southern society.

Mary was a South Carolina author noted for a book published as her Civil War diary, a “vivid picture of a society in the throes of its life-and-death struggle.” She described the war from within her upper-class circles of Southern planter society, but encompassed all classes in her book.

Chesnut worked toward a final form of her book in 1881-1884, based on her extensive diary written during the war years. It was published after her death in 1905.  C. Vann Woodward  annotated edition of the diary, Mary Chesnut’s Civil War (1981), won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1982.

The following is an excerpt from Mary’s diary entries while she was at the First Battle at Fort Sumter from April 11th, 1861 to April 13th, 1861.

April 12th.  Anderson will not capitulate. Yesterday’s was the merriest, maddest dinner we have had yet. Men were audaciously wise and witty. We had an unspoken foreboding that it was to be our last pleasant meeting. Mr. Miles dined with us to-day. Mrs. Henry King rushed in saying, “The news, I come for the latest news. All the men of the King family are on the Island,” of which fact she seemed proud.

While she was here our peace negotiator, or envoy, came in – that is, Mr. Chesnut returned. His interview with Colonel Anderson had been deeply interesting, but Mr. Chesnut was not inclined to be communicative. He wanted his dinner. He felt for Anderson and had telegraphed to President Davis for instructions – what answer to give Anderson, etc. He has now gone back to Fort Sumter with additional instructions. When they were about to leave the wharf A. H. Boykin sprang into the boat in great excitement. He thought himself ill-used, with a likelihood of fighting and he to be left behind!

I do not pretend to go to sleep. How can I? If Anderson does not accept terms at four, the orders are, he shall be fired upon. I count four, St. Michael’s bells chime out and I begin to hope. At half-past four the heavy booming of a cannon. I sprang out of bed, and on my knees prostrate I prayed as I never prayed before.

There was a sound of stir all over the house, pattering of feet in the corridors. All seemed hurrying one way. I put on my double-gown and a shawl and went, too. It was to the housetop. The shells were bursting. In the dark I heard a man say, “Waste of ammunition.” I knew my husband was rowing about in a boat somewhere in that dark bay, and that the shells were roofing it over, bursting toward the fort. If Anderson was obstinate, Colonel Chesnut was to order the fort on one side to open fire. Certainly fire had begun. The regular roar of the cannon, there it was. And who could tell what each volley accomplished of death and destruction?

The women were wild there on the housetop. Prayers came from the women and imprecations from the men. And then a shell would light up the scene. To-night they say the forces are to attempt to land. We watched up there, and everybody wondered that Fort Sumter did not fire a shot.

To-day Miles and Manning, colonels now, aides to Beauregard, dined with us. The latter hoped I would keep the peace. I gave him only good words, for he was to be under fire all day and night, down in the bay carrying orders, etc.

Last night, or this morning truly, up on the housetop I was so weak and weary I sat down on something that looked like a black stool. “Get up, you foolish woman. Your dress is on fire,” cried a man. And he put me out. I was on a chimney and the sparks had caught my clothes. Susan Preston and Mr. Venable then came up. But my fire had been extinguished before it burst out into a regular blaze.

Do you know, after all that noise and our tears and prayers, nobody has been hurt; sound and fury signifying nothing – a delusion and a snare.

Louisa Hamilton came here now. This is a sort of news center. Jack Hamilton, her handsome young husband, has all the credit of a famous battery, which is made of railroad iron. Mr. Petigru calls it the boomerang, because it throws the balls back the way they came; so Lou Hamilton tells us. During her first marriage, she had no children; hence the value of this lately achieved baby. To divert Louisa from the glories of “the Battery,” of which she raves, we asked if the baby could talk yet. “No, not exactly, but he imitates the big gun when he hears that. He claps his hands and cries ‘Boom, boom.’ ” Her mind is distinctly occupied by three things: Lieutenant Hamilton, whom she calls “Randolph,” the baby, and the big gun, and it refuses to hold more.

Pryor, of Virginia, spoke from the piazza of the Charleston hotel. I asked what he said. An irreverent woman replied: “Oh, they all say the same thing, but he made great play with that long hair of his, which he is always tossing aside!”

Somebody came in just now and reported Colonel Chesnut asleep on the sofa in General Beauregard’s room. After two such nights he must be so tired as to be able to sleep anywhere.

Just bade farewell to Langdon Cheves. He is forced to go home and leave this interesting place. Says he feels like the man that was not killed at Thermopylae. I think he said that unfortunate had to hang himself when he got home for very shame. Maybe he fell on his sword, which was the strictly classic way of ending matters.

I do not wonder at Louisa Hamilton’s baby; we hear nothing, can listen to nothing; boom, boom goes the cannon all the time. The nervous strain is awful, alone in this darkened room. “Richmond and Washington ablaze,” say the papers – blazing with excitement. Why not? To us these last days’ events seem frightfully great. We were all women on that iron balcony. Men are only seen at a distance now. Stark Means, marching under the piazza at the head of his regiment, held his cap in his hand all the time he was in sight. Mrs. Means was leaning over and looking with tearful eyes, when an unknown creature asked, “Why did he take his hat off?” Mrs. Means stood straight up and said: “He did that in honor of his mother; he saw me.” She is a proud mother, and at the same time most unhappy. Her lovely daughter Emma is dying in there, before her eyes, of consumption. At that moment I am sure Mrs. Means had a spasm of the heart; at least, she looked as I feel sometimes. She took my arm and we came in.

April 13th.  Nobody has been hurt after all. How gay we were last night. Reaction after the dread of all the slaughter we thought those dreadful cannon were making. Not even a battery the worse for wear. Fort Sumter has been on fire. Anderson has not yet silenced any of our guns. So the aides, still with swords and red sashes by way of uniform, tell us. But the sound of those guns makes regular meals impossible. None of us go to table. Tea-trays pervade the corridors going everywhere. Some of the anxious hearts lie on their beds and moan in solitary misery. Mrs. Wigfall and I solace ourselves with tea in my room. These women have all a satisfying faith. “God is on our side,” they say. When we are shut in Mrs. Wigfall and I ask “Why?” “Of course, He hates the Yankees, we are told. You’ll think that well of Him.”

Not by one word or look can we detect any change in the demeanor of these negro servants. Lawrence sits at our door, sleepy and respectful, and profoundly indifferent. So are they all, but they carry it too far. You could not tell that they even heard the awful roar going on in the bay, though it has been dinning in their ears night and day. People talk before them as if they were chairs and tables. They make no sign. Are they stolidly stupid? or wiser than we are; silent and strong, biding their time?

So tea and toast came; also came Colonel Manning, red sash and sword, to announce that he had been under fire, and didn’t mind it. He said gaily: “It is one of those things a fellow never knows how he will come out until he has been tried. Now I know I am a worthy descendant of my old Irish hero of an ancestor, who held the British officer before him as a shield in the Revolution, and backed out of danger gracefully.” We talked of St. Valentine’s eve, or the maid of Perth, and the drop of the white doe’s blood that sometimes spoiled all.

The war-steamers are still there, outside the bar. And there are people who thought the Charleston bar “no good” to Charleston. The bar is the silent partner, or sleeping partner, and in this fray it is doing us yeoman service.

April 15th.  I did not know that one could live such days of excitement. Some one called: “Come out! There is a crowd coming.” A mob it was, indeed, but it was headed by Colonels Chesnut and Manning. The crowd was shouting and showing these two as messengers of good news. They were escorted to Beauregard’s headquarters. Fort Sumter had surrendered! Those upon the housetops shouted to us “The fort is on fire.” That had been the story once or twice before.

When we had calmed down, Colonel Chesnut, who had taken it all quietly enough, if anything more unruffled than usual in his serenity, told us how the surrender came about. Wigfall was with them on Morris Island when they saw the fire in the fort; he jumped in a little boat, and with his handkerchief as a white flag, rowed over. Wigfall went in through a porthole. When Colonel Chesnut arrived shortly after, and was received at the regular entrance, Colonel Anderson told him he had need to pick his way warily, for the place was all mined. As far as I can make out the fort surrendered to Wigfall. But it is all confusion. Our flag is flying there. Fire-engines have been sent for to put out the fire. Everybody tells you half of something and then rushes off to tell something else or to hear the last news.

In the afternoon, Mrs. Preston, Mrs. Joe Heyward, and I drove around the Battery. We were in an open carriage.

What a changed scene – the very liveliest crowd I think I ever saw, everybody talking at once. All glasses were still turned on the grim old fort.

Russell,the correspondent of the London Times, was there. They took him everywhere. One man got out Thackeray to converse with him on equal terms. Poor Russell was awfully bored, they say. He only wanted to see the fort and to get news suitable to make up into an interesting article. Thackeray had become stale over the water.

Mrs. Frank Hampton and I went to see the camp of the Richland troops. South Carolina College had volunteered to a boy. Professor Venable (the mathematical), intends to raise a company from among them for the war, a permanent company. This is a grand frolic no more for the students, at least. Even the staid and severe of aspect, Clingman, is here. He says Virginia and North Carolina are arming to come to our rescue, for now the North will swoop down on us. Of that we may be sure. We have burned our ships. We are obliged to go on now. He calls us a poor, little, hot-blooded, headlong, rash, and troublesome sister State. General McQueen is in a rage because we are to send troops to Virginia.

Preston Hampton is in all the flush of his youth and beauty, six feet in stature; and after all only in his teens; he appeared in fine clothes and lemon-colored kid gloves to grace the scene. The camp in a fit of horse-play seized him and rubbed him in the mud. He fought manfully, but took it all naturally as a good joke.

Mrs. Frank Hampton knows already what civil war means. Her brother was in the New York Seventh Regiment, so roughly received in Baltimore. Frank will be in the opposite camp.

Good stories there may be and to spare for Russell, the man of the London Times, who has come over here to find out our weakness and our strength and to tell all the rest of the world about us.

THE WOMEN OF HISTORIC RESTORATIONS, c. 2012

From the Left: Katie, Lois, Karri, and Danielle 

With all our posts, articles, education, and discussion on Women’s History month, would you have expected any less of us?  Of course not!  And we are always happy to meet (and then exceed!) expectations.  So without further ado, let’s bring these lovely ladies out into our preservation spotlight and let you get to know the wisdom, grace, talent, ability, grace, expertise, and all-around general fabulousity of these strong women.

“I’m a woman.  Phenomenally.  Phenomenal woman, that’s me.”
-Maya Angelou

“Right-Hand Rosie” Lois

Lois Groshong

The original lady of Historic Restorations, Lois radiates the quiet, centered wisdom that makes you want to fold your legs in under yourself and sit and listen in her quiet for a week or two.  Born to a father bearing the name of Apollo, would you have expected her to be any less of a goddess than she is?

Raised in a Victorian farmhouse in Nebraska by her parents Apollo and Evelyn, Lois and her older brother Thomas spent their days ripping through the fields and orchard playing cowboys and indians and pretending to be an assortment of superheroes, letting their wild imaginations create the world in the unique way that only unfettered childhood can do.

Lois’ Mother had different desires than mud and muck for her daughter.  Initially Lois resisted her Mother’s efforts to turn her into a lovely lady looking sweet in pink, lacy outfits – but eventually Lois blossomed into that lovely young lady indeed.  And while her tastes may not have run along the lines of pink lace, Lois’ original aspiration was to be a fashion designer and she pursued that interest in aesthetic design by majoring in art in college, flexing her creative muscles and rounding out that creativity with a minor in psychology.

Lois may have mimicked a variety of superheroes, but she had a host of real-life superheroes to ground her in the firm reality that heroes and she-roes are not merely for the makings of myths and childhood play.  Lois says, “My heroes are my family members. One of my uncles was the first African America to graduate from Creighton University School of Dentistry, and many of my aunts and uncles (and now siblings and cousins) are doctors, lawyers, in the teaching profession (college level and school administration), and entrepreneurs.  My Mother programmed computers for her job with Farmers Union Insurance Co. for over 20 years.”

With such a strong framework of determination, accomplishment, capability, and obvious worth, Lois’ family were the perfect stewards for the growing goddess.  Stewardship that impacted her strongly and helped her develop the determination she would need to face the world.  “I was told at a very young age that no one was ‘better’ than me, and that I might have to work twice as hard to be recognized as equal, but to never, never give up or ‘they’ win,” Lois says.

And apparently Lois Groshong doesn’t like to lose, because her quiet determination is as solid as the historic buildings she works to save and bring back to life.

“As a child I was creative, curious, and a tom boy.  As a teenager I was creative, introspective, and goofy.  As a young adult I was creative, searching, blooming.  As an adult I am creative, spiritual, traditional, and sometimes everything I was as a child, teenager, and young adult!” she says.

Obviously creativity is a running theme in Lois’ life, and that creativity suits her role in the Historic Restorations team.  As our “Right-Hand Rosie”, Lois facilitates our projects in a variety of ways and in any way necessary to keep the business, clients, and the other team members positive, organized, and focused.  Clients have been known to refer to our goddess as the “remodeling psychologist”.

And that suits her just fine.  “The most satisfying aspect of what I do is knowing that our talents and principles go against the accepted and typical building practices of today, and that what we do will be around long after we are gone,” Lois says.  “Historic preservation is all about conservation as well as preservation and our legacy will be that we shared something that is greater than ourselves and left this world a better place.”

Lois believes the biggest challenge to women in business is simply, “They are not men.  In the building business men are reluctant to have a positive reaction to women directing them in how to do anything.”  But Lois doesn’t let that stop her and simply continues on her way, knowing she has as much ability and right as the next person.  Encouraging other women to do the same, Lois also encourages us all to support women in business by judging businesses by the quality of the service and product they offer.  “Shop at women-owned business not just when you can, but when you should,” she says.

What does the future hold for our (still growing) goddess?  “My future is full of continuing to put my creative talents to good use,” Lois says.  “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”

“Riveting Phenomenon” Danielle

Danielle Groshong-Keperling

If Lois was something of a tom boy, her daughter Danielle was an even bigger one.  Born in Denver, Colorado, her early life was spent following in her Father’s footsteps – figuratively and literally.  Danielle recalls a photo of her at age two where she is wearing her Dad’s work boots and carrying his lunch box, fully prepared to go to work. “I wonder if that picture was a harbinger of things to come,” she says both with a laugh, and in all seriousness.

(And those of us who know Danielle don’t doubt for a second that even at age two, she really would have accompanied him right into work, fully prepared to pitch right in and get to work!)

“By the time I was in Middle School, I would help him clean the shop on weekends to spend time with him, sometimes I would even make wooden plugs,” says Danielle.

Danielle may have inherited a penchant for all things shop-related and a work ethic from her Dad, but she was born with an innate thirst for knowledge.  (Winnie the Pooh once asked Danielle, “Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?”  Danielle patted his head and offered him more honey.)

At the age of 11, Danielle migrated to Lancaster County, PA with her parents, where she began her long and lustrous career of educating herself.  She attended private Catholic grade schools and graduated from Lancaster Catholic High School.  After which she studied Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management at HACC and then completed her Organizational Leadership degree in 2009 at Eastern University.  In late 2011 she graduated with a Masters in Business Administration from Eastern University as well.

While she very much values her formal education, Danielle notes, “Real life eamples and experience have always been the ‘best’ teacher for me, which is one reason I did not feel as comfortable in a traditional college setting.  After all, my first ‘college’ experience was people that brought their real life experience to the ‘class room’.”

And believe it or not, she uses both her Culinary Arts education and her business education to this day.  As Chief Operating Officer at Historic Restorations and as a pastry chef at Byers Butterflake Bakery in Leola.

“I wanted to be a social worker until my senior year of high school when I had the revelation that I could not, in fact, save the world (or even, failing my saving of the world, just bring all the unwanted children home with me).  One day I was home from school sick with wisdom teeth, saw a commercial for a pastry arts program and decided that is what I wanted to do,” Danielle says.

Chief Operating Officer by “day”….  Wedding Cake Decorator by “night”….

And she could rivet too. 

That is indeed our Danielle.  Not having any interest in being anyone but herself, Danielle is funny, creative, decisive, determined, quirky, educated, and sharp.  So smart, we’re pretty sure we’ve seen tacks bow to her as she passes by them in the office.

In her spare time, when she’s not intimidating the office supplies, Danielle can be found reading, watching MSNBC or reality TV, helping friends, working in the community, or working on her master plan for world domination as she belts out her theme song – The Gambler by Kenny Rogers.

Danielle pulls from all these strengths, her work history, and her education in her daily management of Historic Restorations’ operations, working hard towards good stewardship of our collective built history – the most rewarding part of what Historic Restorations does for Danielle.  “My favorite quote points out that we are only on this planet for a short period of time, how we care for and preserve our history is a legacy for for future generations,” she says.

“Like people, houses are created, live, and grow old.  Like us, they eventually disappear.  Houses that survive to be studies, explored, and admired by distant generations should be regarded as emissaries from another time, as gateways into our past.”

 By Jack Larkin in WHERE WE LIVED: Discovering the Places We Once Called Home, The American Home from 1775 to 1840

But it’s only one of the legacies Danielle is working on leaving behind.  As a strong woman in a male-dominated field, she faces daily challenges in her career.  She says that while she does believe things are changing for women in construction, they still have to work a little bit harder and know their “stuff” a little bit better to get respect.  “I don’t know how many men get winked at during a project meeting for knowing the right answer…. but I bet it’s not as many as me,” she says with a laugh.

She advocates for women in business to be supportive of other women in business by sharing stories and providing information, helpful resources, guidance, and support.  “I’ve enjoyed reading books about women that have overcome obstacles and paved the way for my generation.  Including Personal History by Katherine Graham (the first woman to lead a Fortune 500 company after her father died), and If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons on Your Pigtails: And Other Lessons I Learned from My Mom by Barbara Corcoran (who built her real estate empire with a $1,000 loan),” she notes.

So what does the future hold for Danielle?

“Babies, more puppies, penguins, teaching on the college level, a pygmy hippo, who knows?  I am waiting for my crystal ball to arrive – it has been back ordered for awhile now.”

“Office Maven” Katie

Katie O’Brien

Our newest addition to the Historic Restorations team, Katie, is a Lancaster County native (though her parents are originally from Pittsburgh, where they now live again).  Active in dance and sports in childhood, Katie was adventurous, friendly, and eager to learn as a child, “rebellious, active, and confused” as a teenager, and now finds herself solidly in “happy, independent, world traveler” as a young adult.

Katie graduated from Clarion University of PA with a B.S.BA and a focus on marketing.  She also studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland and attended Dublin Business School, as well as interned for a non-profit organization while in Dublin.

“Traveling, studying, and working in Europe heavily influenced who I am today.  I don’t believe I would have gotten this far in my career without that asset,” says the frank Katie.

In her free time, Katie enjoys spending time with family and friends, watching movies, listening to music, being outside, and reading.  She brings many strengths to the table, but isn’t one to over-estimate herself.  “My strengths are that I am easy to get along with, a quick learner, and I am always interested in learning and doing something new.  But I procrastinate sometimes and always have multiple to-do lists going on at once,” she says in her straight-forward manner.

But while managing multiple to-do lists may feel like a weakness to Katie, it works as a strength for the important role she plays in the Historic Restorations team.  As our resident “Office Maven”, Katie executes daily administration tasks and marketing strategies with her precision efficiency and organization (and flourishing penmanship).  Quite literally everything and anything might be thrown Katie’s way, and she’s a master at woman-handling it and throwing it right back.  If this she-roe weren’t quite so petite and friendly, it might almost call Paul Bunyan to mind.  And for many, it does anyway.

Katie’s interest in historic preservation stems from her innate value of older buildings.  “It is important to me to preserve these buildings.  If they aren’t, they will be lost forever, and buildings just aren’t built the same anymore – they aren’t as grand as they once were,” she says wistfully.  With a sigh.

When asked about the challenges women in business face, Katie said, “They face discrimination, judgement from others, and are often viewed as being incompetent.  Through my career, I have faced not being respected by older colleagues and being looked down on.”

How does Katie woman-handle that?

“I turn to older colleagues and family members.  It’s easy to feel alone when situations happen, and women can support each other by sharing their experiences and stories.  It’s always good to remember that you’re not the only woman who has experienced challenges in business,” she says.

Katie’s biggest she-roe and influence has been her older sister, Kelly.  An independent woman who is very successful, happily married, and mother to an 18-month-old, Katie values having a strong and capable role model to look up to.

With that same positive outlook on things, Katie says of her future, “I am not certain what my future holds for me, but it is bright!”

“Wordsmith Extraordinaire” Karri

Karri A. Sensenig

Karri is another Lancaster County native we recently added to our (apparently growing) collection of native artifacts.  She’s joined our team as a consultant to help us develop and implement the Historic Restorations newsletter and blog as the solid educational resource we want it to be.

Karri uses her background in journalism, writing and reporting, marketing, education, and construction to pull together educational content for the online community we are building for our customers, colleagues, and the preservation community so they can continue learning, discussing, and sharing historic preservation information.

“I like to talk and teach people about things.  Or type.  Whichever is most accessible for me at the moment.  I’m not terribly picky,” she says.

Married to one of Lancaster County’s few remaining stone masonry artisan craftsmen, and raised in a family of traditional tradespeople, Karri is no stranger to the construction industry.  Raised in a Mennonite family and the traditional Lancaster County culture, historic preservation is as ingrained in her as hanging her wash out to dry and growing her own tomatoes.  (Heirloom varieties, of course.)  Her first full-time job after graduating high school was with a construction company, and over the years she has worked for and consulted with a wide range of small to large construction companies.

In addition to her career activities, Karri has spent the last 15 years homeschooling, home-making, gardening, reading, writing, pursuing her B.A. in Educational Studies, studying and learning.  She’s rather curious about pretty much anything and everything and might surprise you by holding her own in discussions about anything from the best way to knead bread, to the economic impact of current trade policy, to the financial implications of local school district policies.

“I don’t believe in blindly following someone’s opinion – even my own – so I question it all, especially myself. I don’t know that I ever really gets answers to those questions, but I do learn a lot along the way,” she says.

As a child Karri grew up on farms and spent most of her time outdoors, in the fields, woods, ponds, creeks, and occasionally the back yard.  “I was a ‘free range’ kid,” she says, “Organically grown.  But I’m pretty sure there was some genetic modification, so no official organic label.”  As a teenager she continued to spend most of her time outdoors, this time usually on her horse.  As a young adult she poured her energy into mothering the four children she had in seven years.  While getting her B.A. and helping her husband start his own business.

We’re pretty sure they make a medication for people like her, and we’re kind of glad she doesn’t take it.

Now she splits her time between her family and homeschooling her kids and helping Historic Restorations save our history – one building at a time.  She says, “Historic preservation provides us all with a sense of community, a sense of self, a sense of place – all of which is important to me.”

But that isn’t the only thing important to Karri, supporting women in business is just as important.  She says, “The culture I grew up in is a very practical culture, and we don’t like things like wasted space so our glass ceiling was pretty low.  And I’m rather tall, so I kept hitting it.  After enough of bumps, I decided it might be smarter to just raise it.”

How does Karri accomplish that?

“Education.  Knowledge is power, not just because you now have awareness, but because now you can take action.  Without knowledge, the action true change requires could never happen.  So I educate people,” she says.

Will she do that for the rest of her life?  What else will she do?

“I’m not sure I’d know how not to do that!” she proclaims, adding, “I could try, I guess.  But I’d rather try lots of other things first.  Like running a marathon, or better yet an ultra-marathon like the 135-miler in Death Valley.”

One of the more intriguing interpretative strategies we read about during our research into expanding historic preservation to include women’s history was the use of heritage trails.  By now, we are all familiar with heritage trails – those walking and driving journeys around to different historic sites that historical commissions, museums, public agency, community organizations, and even private individuals put together to motivate us put on our shoes, grab our keys, and plan a trip to explore history.  
And motivate us it does, who doesn’t read about a particular heritage trail and decide they *don’t* want to make that particular journey?
Which is why a historic preservation master’s thesis we stumbled across piqued our interest with its title, “Commemoration and Protest: The Use of Heritage Trails to Connect Women’s History with Historic Sites” submitted to the University of Pennsylvania by Marissa J. Moshier.
We’re not going to bore you with a full-blown rehash and review of the excellent information Moshier conveyed in her thesis, mostly because you can read it for yourself right here, but also because we’d really rather make a better use of this space (and your time) to discuss this topic.

You see, for all the information Moshier presented (and believe us, you should read it, because it was a ton), it was what was missing from that information that stood out the most to us.  For all those wise, wise words, for all her obviously extensive research, for all the astute observations and connections she made, for all the motivation her writing inspired, for all her details on the women’s heritage trails in states and cities across the country, there was one thing Moshier failed to include in her information: any mention of a woman’s history heritage trail in Pennsylvania.

Because there isn’t one.

So what we would LOVE to discuss is how a heritage trail could be developed, promoted, and used by the public to connect women’s history to the rich network of historic sites we have here.

Here are our beginning questions, let’s open up the discussion.  Feel free to give us your thoughts in response to these questions, or respond with more questions you might have.

           Who would develop this heritage trail?             

                                            How would they develop it?   

   Would it be contained to publicly operated sites?  

             Could it blend both publicly and privately operated sites?  

     What were the important contributions women made in 
     Pennsylvania’s history?  

                                What were the roles they played 
throughout our history?  

              How are those contributions and roles already 
              represented in our history sites?  

  How can we connect those sites with a heritage trail?  

                       Which sites would we use?  

            Which sites specifically include women’s history already?  
    Are they the best ones to use to tell women’s stories in 
   Pennsylvania history?  
Do we need to develop new ones?

The following is an excellent list of resources for further reading and study into the effective inclusion of women’s history into historical preservation.  It is by no means comprehensive, but we found great value in reading the following and hope you will too.  Most of them require nothing more than a click (or a few) of the mouse and a few minutes of your time to explore.
————

“Declaration of Sentiments” 
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/senecafalls.asp

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal…”  So begins the Declaration of Sentiments – the document created at the first Women’s Rights Convention held in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848.  In it, 68 women and 32 men, used the model of the U.S. Declaration of Independence to lay bare their demands for women’s rightful place in our society.  It is simply a must read for any preservationist, but unfortunately it’s one most don’t even realize exists.

————
Women’s History Resources in Pennsylvania

http://hsp.org/collections/catalogs-research-tools/subject-guides/womens-history-resources

The Historical Society of PA maintains online collection access for many resources, including resources on women’s history in Pennsylvania.  In this guide they detail those women’s history resources and collections and include a link to their online catalog of collections.  Further exploration of their website will yield you a ton of other good information, resources, and inspiration as well.

————

“Raising Our Sites: Integrating Women’s History into Museums” by Kim Moon
http://crm.cr.nps.gov/archive/20-3/20-3-14.pdf

In this article, Kim Moon, Assistant Director of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC), details the PHC pilot program from the early 1990’s that consciously worked to incorporate the female historical perspective into state museums across Pennsylvania.  Several museums in our area participated in this program and Moon’s article discusses what worked about the program, the challenges they face and how they overcame them, the procedural structures the program used to implement changes in exhibits, and sample activities developed to include women’s history.
————

National Women’s History Project
http://www.nwhp.org/

Founder of Women’s History Month is just one of the praises we could sing about The National Women’s History Project (NWHP).  In addition to supporting Women’s History Month and coordinating women’s history celebrations, observances, activities, etc. every March, the NWHP hosts collaborative workshops and conferences to raise awareness of women’s history, provides wide accessibility about women’s history through their award-winning website, and serves as our nation’s number one resources for information, artifacts, and resource material about the roles of women in American history.  

————

“Places where women made History” by the National Park Service 
http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/pwwmh/index.htm

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first Women’s Right Convention, the National Park Service (NPS) developed this travel itinerary of 75 places in New York and Massachusetts where you can learn about many women who made important historical contributions to education, government, medicine, the arts, commerce, women’s suffrage, and the civil rights movement.  This itinerary can be used as an actual travel itinerary, as well as an online opportunity to take a virtual trip to learn about how these women helped make history.  Each location link has general information about the site, pictures, maps, and links to essays that provide historical background for the sites.  This website also includes an extensive bibliography of resources, many online, in their “Learn More” section.
————

“Feminism in the Museum” by Lisa Price
 http://www.wrinklybrain.com/FeminismInTheMuseum.pdf

In this essay, author Lisa Price provides and overview of the information contained in Barbara Melosh’s article “Speaking of Women: Museums’ Representations of Women’s History“.  Price provides a succinct summation of the information in Melosh’s article about the role historical preservation plays in our society. Melosh’s full article was printed in History Museums in the United States: A Critical Assessment (edited by Warren Leon and Roy Rosenzweig, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989). 
————

“Transmitting Culture by Preserving Women’s History” by Connie Lamb http://www.mtnforum.org/sites/default/files/pub/1019.pdf

Connie Lamb’s article discusses the Women’s Manuscript collection that focuses on Mormon and Western U.S. women maintained at The Bringham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah.  Lamb presents a strong case for including women’s manuscripts in historical preservation to access and document women’s life experiences throughout history by preserving diaries, letters, poetry, oral histories, biographies, etc.  Her articles includes a link to the online guide to the manuscript collection maintained at BYU, which does offer online access to some texts.

————


“Restoring Women’s History Through Historic Preservation” edited by Gail Lee Dubrow and Jennifer B. Goodman


This book is not available online (though some of the articles it contains are), but it is available at the Franklin & Marshall College Library in Lancaster, PA.  The general public is welcome to join the library for a nominal fee, and we encourage you to do so if for no other reason than to read this book (though you might find yourself enjoying the architecture, the quiet, and the Library of Congress cataloging system at the library).  In it information abounds about how to research women’s history, combat challenges to preserving women’s history, include women’s history in existing preservation, organize new preservation of women’s history, build a “village” that will tackle the issue of preserving women’s history in your community, and more. 

————

“Revealing Women’s History: Best Practices at Historic Sites” by the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites
http://www.ncwhs.org/images/stories/revealing-womens-history.pdf

In this publication, five case studies are presented of how the historic sites across our country have brought the female part of our history into their preservation based on asking: “What women were present here?”, “What women were affected by the events/people here?”, “How did women affect this site?”, and “How did they perceive it?”.

————

National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites
http://ncwhs.org/

Founded in 2001, the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites (NCWHS) works towards the goal of making women’s history and their participation in American life highly visible and valued in historic sites.  One of the ways they do this is by publishing Women’s History: Sites and Resources, a 142-page reference guide for American women’s past that features forty women’s history sites and projects, complete with travel itineraries, teaching plans, and websites.  Additionally, NCWHS is currently working on a women’s history heritage trail project, and hosted an “Integrating Women’s History” workshop in 2011 (the complete video series of the workshop is available to watch free of cost on their website).

————

Over 100 years ago, women in this country began working towards being recognized in the eyes of the law.  They sought the right to vote, the right to own property, the right to fair and equal wages, among other rights.  They fought hard and they won them all.  
Yet in the early 90’s out of over 500 historic sites in Pennsylvania, only a single one of them intentionally featured the women’s historical experience in their permanent displays.  
After almost two hundred years of work by women’s rights activists, we are still recovering from the affects of treating women as less important than men and clearly need to turn a conscious eye towards preserving women’s historical experiences in our preservation efforts.

So how do we do that? What exactly are we preserving? What opposition and challenges might we face? What resources and tools can we use to accomplish this goal? What methods are best for reinterpreting our preservation efforts?

Revisit the history you thought you knew….

In Restoring Women’s History through Historic Preservation, editors Gail Lee Dubrow and Jennifer B. Goodman point out that the first step towards expanding our interpretation of history to include women’s perspectives is to put women’s historical experiences and women’s questions about the past at the core of the preservation framework.  Before we begin even putting together the what the final preservation will “look like”, we need to ask ourselves what the woman’s experience was at the time and what women today will wonder and ask about that experience.  
This should include preserving both the shared experiences between men and women, as well as the gender-defined roles they each played separately.  Neither men nor women lived completely apart and separate from each other and a well-rounded preservation of the past will value both their individual roles, the roles they played together, and the roles they played to influence the other gender’s roles.

A common challenge preservationists may come up in the process of integrating women’s history into their projects is the opinion that reinterpreting our history is “revisionist history”.   What may be most helpful in overcoming this challenge, should you find yourself facing it, is to build public awareness of  the contributions women made as producers, consumers, wives, mothers, healers, nurturers, social and political influences, community organization, moral authorities, etc.  These contributions make up half of our collective history and reinterpreting our historical preservation to include women’s perspectives is not rewriting history, it’s deepening our understanding of it.

 Preservation 
doesn’t need
to add
women into
history,
it only need
show how 
history has 
already 
included them.

Identify and tell your woman’s story….

Since women recorded their experiences, opinions, thoughts, interests, and roles throughout history in a multitude of ways, resources to help build women’s perspectives into our historical preservation literally abound.  Diaries and journals, household receipts and account books, organization records from social, cultural, and political organizations, correspondences (both public and private), prints and drawings, as well as manuscripts are all good beginning points to research the feminine viewpoint for your particular preservation project.  You may be surprised at some of the stories that begin to weave themselves around your preservation project as you learn more about how women functioned within its context.

Thanks to these vast and far-reaching roles that women throughout history played, artifacts that can be used to tell the women’s story you discover include your research is virtually unlimited.

Clothing, postcards collections, period prints and photos, newspaper articles, jewelry and hair adornments, costumes, textiles, home and domestic artifacts, portraiture, period books, magazines, recipes, medical instruments, tools related to women-defined occupations, childbearing and child rearing artifacts such as toys, period advertisement about women, furniture and decorative art, political papers and campaign advertisements.  All of which can be used in a variety of settings such as inside the period home, factory, social hall, church, town center, civic organization, etc.

Your site’s period and subject matter will also be a source of inspiration for how to tell women’s stories in your preservation.  But don’t limit yourself to just focusing on those things traditionally associated with the women of your preservation’s story. Turning to objects not typically associated with women (large power machinery, guns, military uniforms) can create a powerful commentary on the gender and value judgments that society of that time held.

Preserve extraordinary history with ordinary people….

Preservationists looking to include women’s history need also be careful that they are not falling into the easy habit of focusing only on well-known, high-profile, or prominent women in society.  Their stories are easy to tell, but the common, “ordinary” experience of the many should not be overshadowed by the more noticeable experience of the few.  Not only will the public more easily relate to the experience of “every day” women, these are the very experiences that most shaped the stories our preservation efforts seek to tell.

Notable female figures
in history play an
important role when we
preserve our stories.


William Penn is a notable historic figure to most Pennsylvanians (and many non-Pennsylvanians), but do you know who Sue, little Sue, Mary Lofty, and Abigail Pemberton were?  If you have been to visit Pennsbury Manor (reconstruction of William Penn’s summer home located north of Philadelphia) recently, you probably do.

They are the women of Penn’s household. Sue was his enslaved African American woman, little Sue was her daughter, Mary Lofty was Penn’s housekeeper, and Abigail was her assistant.  In the 1990’s, these women’s historical experience were built into the preservation at Pennsbury Manor in order to provide visitors with a more in-depth look into William Penn’s life.

Adding these ordinary women into the site’s preservation not only sheds light on the lives of the women, children, and servants who once lived there, it also allows visitors to explore the issues of class, race, and gender in the context of William Penn’s ideals and philosophy.  Were these women “unimportant” to history?  To William Penn?

So do the lesser known
women who’s ordinary
lives built an extraordinary
history for our culture. 

The answer, of course, is a resounding “no” – there are many more Sue, Mary Lofty, and Abigails in our history than there are William Penns and building our preservation efforts based solely on the notable, wealthy, powerful, noble, brilliant, famous people throughout our history presents a narrowly focused, imbalanced view of who and how we were.  

In reference to Ghandi, Albert Einstein once said, “Generations to come will scarcely believe that such a one ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”  A quite fitting sentiment indeed to express about such an inspirational human being as Ghandi.  But does this sentiment apply any less to Ghandi’s siblings?  His parents? His neighbors?  Perhaps in some ways, it’s even more meaningful to express such a sense of awe, such an an overwhelming esteem, towards a common, ordinary, “every day” person.

In conclusion…. and hopefully in inspiration….

Make no mistake, progress for women in our culture has come a long way, and our preservation of women’s culture has too. Almost everywhere you turn, you see another piece of evidence showing how we’ve brought women’s places in society into an increasing consciousness and growing esteem.  
Let’s approach our future preservation with that very same goal: increasing consciousness and growing esteem of the roles women in our history have played and how we can broaden our preservation efforts to include women’s history.

“When people … took action, then there was a change.” 
-Rosa Parks

Ever wonder what the women of the Ephrata Cloister were like?  What other local women of that era were like?  The Ephrata Cloister can show you, with their program “Mothers, Sisters, Daughters” that explores the roles, duties, responsibilities, and influences of both the celibate women of the Cloister and married women of Colonial America.  For more information, visit their website at: ephratacloister.org.