Godey's Lady's BookGodey’s Lady’s Book was a United States magazine published in Philadelphia from 1830-1878.  At the height of its popularity in the 1860’s, Godey’s referred to itself as the “Queen of Monthlies”.

Marketed specifically to women, each issue contained poetry, articles, recipes, sheet music for the piano, dress patterns, illustrated fashion styles, and other engravings.  At $3 per year, a subscription to Godey’s was expensive.  Despite this, Godey’s was the most popular journal of its time.

The magazine is best known for the hand-tinted fashion plate that appeared at the start of each issue, which provide a record of the progression of women’s dress. Publisher Louis Godey boasted that in 1859, it cost $105,200 to produce the Lady’s Book, with the coloring of the fashion-plates costing $8,000.

Although it was a “Lady’s Book”, it was not a particularly feminist publication. There were special issues that included only work done by women, and beginning in 1852 a regular “Employment for Women” section made its debut – but in general, Godey disliked political or controversial topics in his magazine and stayed away from any potential conflict.

So much so that when the Civil War split the nation in half, Godey explicitly forbade the magazine from taking any position on the issue of slavery and so the issues of Godey’s Lady Book published in the runup to the Civil War and even during the Civil war make absolutely no acknowledgement of the Civil War at all.

In 1845 Godey’s Lady Book became the first copyrighted publication in America. Louis Godey was widely criticized for this move, with other editors accusing him of taking a “narrowly selfish course”.

 

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.

 

Kitchens are more than just a place to cook our food.  They are usually one of the main family living areas where we gather, commune, play, break bread with family and friends, and sometimes even work with laptop and files plopped on the table so we are sure to stay abreast of all the family’s happenings.

But they weren’t always this way.  In fact, in the late 1700’s and throughout the 1800’s – kitchens were more or less viewed as necessary evils to be tolerated and tucked away as unseen, unfelt, unheard, and unknown as possible.

In the very earliest Colonial America houses, this was accomplished by building kitchens in the basement of homes to keep the hardworking class that worked in the kitchen, as well as all of a kitchen’s rubbish, odors, soot, and smoke as far from the dining and living areas as possible.

Somewhere in the beginning of the 1700’s, kitchens began to be removed from the home and housed in small buildings located a short distance from the main house – something we usually refer to as a “summer kitchen”.  We’ve heard these kitchens were built to save the main house from the extra heat of a kitchen during the hot summer months.

This was, no doubt, a consideration, and probably the primary one for most households.  But as it turns out, it’s not the only one, and probably not the primary one for more well-off households.  This new kitchen architecture in wealthier households seems to have had more to do with race, gender, and social space than it did with the practical considerations of meal preparations for those in the middle to upper classes, as it reflected the growing custom of separating guests and family from slaves and cooks.

While energy efficiency was a dominant concern for one demographic in early America, and a strong sense of social order and place for another demographic, both demographics had one major reason for keeping kitchen spaces tucked away by the late 1700’s.  In the 19th Century, the “Miasmatic Theory” was the dominant disease theory and promoted the belief that offensive odors of decaying materials transmitted diseases, and by the mid-1800’s experts were campaigning to eliminate the causes of foul smells from housing in order to improve public health.

But keeping a house cooler in the summer, keeping the help away from the family and guests, and keeping sickness at bay by not exposing the house to offensive odors weren’t the only things that helped shape the history of our kitchen architecture.   The changing roles of women too.

Women played the role of providers of preventative medicine in their role as housewives, and the new focus on public health and disease prevention propelled women into a new role: domestic scientist.  Early feminist leaders advocated the use of a scientific approach to home management, cookery, and kitchen maintenance – especially as it related to maintaining good health.  The kitchen became viewed as a workshop to be designed and maintained for optimal work quality instead of the utilitarian “evil necessity” they had been as the housewife found that she had a higher calling in the battle against disease.

This new “professional housewife” had a new role, and needed a new kitchen environment to match.  Kitchens were pulled back into the home and placed squarely into the center of family function, as housewives tackled kitchen tasks in this new professional and scientific manner.

And so the modern kitchen was born, as by the turn of the 20th Century the loss of domestic help and advances in time management and public sanitation techniques shaped a new kitchen architecture for America.

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.