View Full Version : New to it all

09-06-2007, 04:52 PM
I have always loved history and the Civil War. I finally decided to join a civilian's group in my state but before I do, I probably should ask: What exactly do civilian women do? Besides nurses, what really goes on in civilian reenacting?

09-06-2007, 05:17 PM
You might want to head over to Google books and do some reading. I highly recommend Linus Brockett's book Woman's work in the Civil War as a starting point

09-06-2007, 06:17 PM
i chase my kids around all day :) no really... i cook and do the cleaning. then i work on my quilt, watch some battles, do some tatting. do some laundry, straighten the tent. okay basically... reenactments are a vacation for me :) oh i also make my dhs rounds for him. some women make sure the men have ice.

09-06-2007, 06:29 PM
Sarah, it really depends on the events you attend. Some provide very little in the way of citizen activities, and others are full-bore immersion into a period character interacting with other period characters in a period setting for the whole weekend, and there's everything in between.

Depending on what aspects of women's roles in the mid-century you're personally interested in, you can find events... but some may require travel!

What areas of mid-century life do you personally find most interesting?

09-07-2007, 07:04 PM

I rarely post on forums but I felt that I must tell you about the many interesting roles my wife has enjoyed at immersion events. She was a poor women who had to bury food in her garden at McDowell.
She has portrayed the grandmother in a family of refugees from the fighting at Recon II and slept by the side of the road while troops and horses went by within a few feet of her. She portrayed a poor townswoman at Burkettsville who helped in the hospital ( located in the church that was the hospital for the original cast) for twenty- four hours, feeding wounded and wiping their brows, holding lanterns for operations and waking up whenever any of the "patients" needed her. She and I traveled by the stage line through Kentucky to Nashville and stopped at an inn and stayed two nights at the Inn at Peak's Mill event. At War on the James she was a dismissed governess on a Virginia plantation who was travelling with two women who escaped from an insane asylum, although she did not know it at the time! Most recently she portrayed a well off widow who was on a jury for a Kentucky murder trial. She and I portrayed a Christen Commission agent and his wife at Harper's Ferry.
As you can see, opportunities at this type of event are many and varied. All you have to do is a bit of research and a bit of pre- event planning. Your fellow participants will mentor you by internet so you would be ready for this fascinating style of re-enacting.

Mark Hintzen

09-09-2007, 04:25 AM
Preach on, Brother Hintzen! :D

09-09-2007, 11:32 AM
Women made the world keep going 'round while the men were away fighting in the war. They ran businesses and farms and plantations, worked in ammunition factories, cooked, cleaned, sewed and mended, knitted, worked for the abolition of slavery, volunteered for the sanitary commission, packed care packages, raised children, taught in schools, wrote letters and books, worked as nurses (although they were still somewhat breaking into this profession) and some were even doctors. Some masqueraded as men and fought in the war. (Of course, if they were found, they were drummed out of the service, but many escaped detection.) Don't ever let anyone tell you that if you're a woman portraying a civilian that you're just supposed to walk around and look pretty and have tea parties. Women did plenty of stuff. Often, a reenactor creates several impressions for herself and lets the event dictate which one she should use. I've been a USO-type traveling entertainer, a woman working in an ammunition factory (that's my cartridge-rolling demo), a regular townsperson, a cook/laundress, and a school teacher opening up the schoolhouse to fleeing refugees.

Make sure you start with a properly fitting corset and build up from there. Your local fabric store probably carries the Simplicity Martha McCain Fashion Historian line of patterns, and I'll wager you can find or already know someone who is handy with a needle and thread. Then build on that with a proper dress and some good shoes. Many sutleries carry good reproduction boots for ladies. (I got mine from Blockade Runner, but Abraham's Lady and other sutleries also have nice ones.)

And don't let anyone tell you that "all women always did thus-and-so". One hundred percent of women in modern times don't do anything completely the same, and women in the Civil War weren't all complete cookie-cutters of each other either. Each one was her own person with her own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. True, they may have done many things in a similar way as other women, but do you know any two people who are 100% alike?

Of course, don't take that as license to run around in polyester all weekend either. ;)

Find a group to join. Hopefully the Civilian Coordinator will be able to guide you as you become a reenactor. (Or if you're like me and you have no one to ask, then just come back here and ask your questions. I'd be happy to have someone be a big question-asker besides just me!)

09-14-2007, 05:13 AM
Thank you everyone for your help. Hopefully I will find the right place to reenact. Thank you again.

09-14-2007, 07:30 AM
You might want to review the post labeled "civilian impressions" by Marinedrummerboy. His question was similar to yours and the answers given have narrowed the focus to help out with starting: impression, basics for material culture and all that.

Welcome to the board, and don't be afraid to ask specific questions if you get stuck in your own research!