Saturday, April 23, 2016

Be the Change you Want!

There has been a lot of discussion lately on social media regarding parity for women at reenactment events.  Here's my two pence for what it's worth.

Set Realistic Goals
Ladies -  you are never going to have complete parity at a Rev War encampment.  It's not about you - it's about the battle, the uniforms, the cannons and the muskets.  If historical accuracy is your goal, most of you shouldn't even be there, let alone be cooking for the masses, having teas, and sitting around in nice gowns under a dining fly.  This is not to say that you can't do something else while you are there.  There are lots of opportunities to do great impressions - laundress, petty sulter, etc.. However, not everyone wants to do these, nor should they.  So what is a girl to do?

Set up your own area --  Demonstrations, children's activities, etc.  Or get out of camp all together and set up shop at a local historical house for the day.  Most places would love to have you and you'll be a star in more ways than one.
Mount Vernon - Post War Event

Experiment with your real 18th century role
Let's face it, women were second class citizens in the 18th century.  Why not experiment with this reality.  Spend your weekend being subservient.  Instead of saying hi to your friend the officer, curtsy at his passing and acknowledge him as sir.  Try being a servant.  Lots of teaching moments for sure - for others and yourself.

Be a Leader
Volunteer to join an event organizing committee.  Talk is cheap, but those who actually roll up their sleeves and do the work are the real heroes.  If you want increased visibility for what you are doing, get involved.  Most organizers are thrilled to have help and appreciate offers of additional programs -- if you propose something well thought out and appropriate, I guarantee you'll never be turned down.

Market Faire MMNHP

String your own ropeline
My last post that advised women to leave the ropeline was, by some, misconstrued.  My point was to know that there are other options.  Interpreting as a guide can be an awesome experience for visitor, interpreter, as well as the site.  Sometimes that's all a woman or non-musket firing man can offer at an event.  Example - Lexington Green on Patriots Day.  However, at large events take your interpretation past the ropelines.  Offer a camp tour, better yet, do a camp tour from the vantage point of a camp follower.  Even just the act of getting dressed can provide a great half hour of education. (A great way to justify the making of a new shift and/or handsewn stays!)

Be Creative
Here's an example.  Except for the a very small number of women, the Boston Massacre is a man's event.  What self respecting woman would be hanging around with a mob during a tumultuous March evening?  The stars of the evening are the mob, the 29th, the Old State House, and the Sentry Box. When women volunteer for this event, save for a few speaking parts, your role will be an that of an interpreter.  But like most ropeline gigs, there is lots of time before and after an event to do something amazing.  As I've already mentioned, few sites will turn down a well planned and executed program. 

Challenge Event Minute Man NHP
Be the Show
The civilian events that Hive puts on are an offshoot of those that pioneers like Barbara DeLorey planned in the early 2000's with her women's group.  She recognized that there were lots of untapped opportunities for interpretation.  These ranged from themed reenactments with first-person scenarios to demonstration and teaching events.  We at the Hive have continued that tradition and will continue to do so in the future.  We have been fortunate to have sites like Minute Man National Historical Park as a venue for many of these programs, which speaks to the importance of great partners.  It's exciting to see other sites climb on board.  Newport Historical, for example, set the bar pretty high at last year's Stamp Act event.  Not only was it a well planned event, the site made the reeanctors feel welcome and valued -- which was a stark contrast to a certain other maritime event that happened earlier that summer.

Effigies at the Stamp Act Event Newport 2015
 Do it Well!
Whatever you do, do it well.  Do your homework, bring your documentation, deliver on what you promise.  Don't wait around for something to happen, make it happen.  Be warned, however, it's hard work.

You can't change history,  our roles were what they were. But that shouldn't limit you from doing great living history.   Remember, as a friend of mine once said, "Men need a cast of thousands to do a military event.  You ladies are lucky, put two of you in an historical setting and you have a great event!"
Finally have fun - after all this is a hobby.

Sandy S. having fun at Longfellow House - Cambridge, MA 2015

Monday, April 18, 2016

Battle Road -- Beyond the Rope Line

Ladies – Its time to get off the sidelines!
Along the rope line at Tower Park
(thanks to my friends in this picture for agreeing to share this image)

2016’s MMNHP’s Battle Road Saturday’s Events are over.  A sunny, yet cool and breezy day brought out hundreds of visitors.  For the Hivesters at Hartwell it meant a steady stream of guests that started to arrive in droves even before we had officially set up for the day.  There was other activity on the road, specifically the Tough Ruckers who were pushing though their individual marathons in fatigues and combat boots laden with backpacks not to mention the memories that 26.2 miles of walking would give them time to honor, savor, try to forget or all of the above.  I meant to ask them if during their journey they ever heard the ghosts of April 19th  urging them forward.

Since the “tactical demonstrations” have moved up to Parker’s Revenge, Hartwell has become an oasis of living history without the pressure and highly orchestrated activities of a battle reenactment.  The quilting frame was set-up for those who needed some meditative stitch therapy. No matter how many stitches per inch you achieve, in a half an hour your blood pressure is lowered by 10 points.  There were lots of sewing projects that were seeing steady progress without the distractions that happen at home – like cats sitting on your project or the Internet beckoning.  Lunch was a cornucopia of amazing period foods, some of which were the successful results of the Preserving the Harvest event of the previous season.  The less than successful outcomes also had their place - but as teaching moments. 

Things quieted down when many of the tourists were attracted by the clarion call of musket fire.  It is at this time when some of the best tourist interactions occur. Often these are the visitors who truly come to learn and linger to hear their thoughtful questions answered.

So after a good night’s sleep and now that the rest of the props and clothing from Saturday’s event have been put away, I’ve had time to do my AAR, which generally is just batted around between a few close friends.  But this time I’m going public because I’m kind of frustrated.  Because once again, the majority of women participating at this event are on the sidelines or in this case the rope lines.

Been there done that.  Yes, you are doing a valuable service as guide and interpreter and the Park Service and the Tower Park organizers rely on the help. And believe me, I'm not disparaging the role of guide and interpreter. But the actual battle is less an hour – what about the rest of the day? Ladies, once again, like every other event of the season, the guys are the show and you are taking a supporting role when you could be spending your day as the main event!

Battle Road is unique as it is really a collection of event and venues.  There is something for everyone.  But the more I think about it, the ladies (and the guys who don’t want to spend their day burning powder) could do some amazing living history but are once again are focusing their day around an hour on the rope line.  But here's the thing - organizers are going to keep doing what they are doing unless you ask for change. The guys make sure their battle happens - maybe it's time to make sure you have other options - and there are other options.

So I challenge you ladies to elevate your participation at Battle Road.  Let’s plan something really worthy of your great clothes, research, and hard work.  It’s time to get off the sidelines and get in the game! Why not:

·      Set up a first person zone and practice scenarios focused on either domestic life or the events that would become the start of the Revolution.
·      Bring out the spinning wheels and teach each other to spin – or use a tape loom.
·      See if it is possible to quilt a petticoat in a weekend
·      Make a seasonal meal
·      Teach someone a new skill
     Learn a new skill
·      Do Laundry
·      Finish a project
·      Spend the day visiting and learning
·      Do a fashion show for the public
·      The possibilities are endless

Who’s in????