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

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