Saturday, May 7, 2011

Honorable Women Among Us

A Mother's Day Tribute to Reenacting Women
    The first large reenactment we went to as spectators was to Cedar Creek.  I remember the infantry, the artillery, the cavalry, the sutlers, the battle, and oh yes, there were women there in hoop skirts.  But to be honest, I don't have a memory of the women in camp dresses.  I know they were there.  But as a first time spectator, a male interested in military history, what women I noticed were nice but not needing great attention.  I do remember one woman in black mourning clothes.  But my focus was on what the men were wearing and doing. 

Lemonade Conference

     After many years of reenacting I now realize how much the women, especially those in camp dresses contribute to the hobby.  Now for the record I am not against women who wear hoop skirts.  They have their place of adding to the perspective of the encampment for the spectators.  They are the "celebrities" the spectators see.  But my experience has been that it is the camp dress women who are the oil in the reenacting machinery.  I've seen this in the units we have reenacted with over the years. These women bring the food, tend the fires, clean up after, patch up the outfits, manage the kids, find the canteens or the socks or the haversack or whatever else "was just here honey".
     Yes, I know that the women can wear both hoop skirts and camp dresses.  And some actually do both roles well and with balance.  But I think we will all have to admit that there are certain personalities that do better at being the served than serving, and so the dress often does distinguish the heart.
     On this mother's day weekend, I want to pay tribute to my wife who has been a camp dress lady.  She has worked hard prior to each reenactment getting us all ready, preparing food for sharing, often baking for the entire week before hand what we would offer at the tent.  Early on she did try wearing a few hoops under her skirt but gave up because "there is just too much work to get done to be bothered trying to maneuver around in it".  I think of the many other women who I've known who came along with their husband's odd hobby out of love and loyalty to him, and have contributed so much to making the hobby great and gotten so little recognition.  If you have such a woman who comes along with you, you need to say a heartfelt thanks many times throughout the year to them.  If there are women in your unit who serve your unit you need to show them respect and honor.
     The women will notice they are honored even if they don't say so.  Let me give two examples.
     One time we did an event in Columbus, OH. (Vicki is from that area).  We didn't know people at the event.  We just showed up, set up and began to do our Christian Commission thing.  We were odd birds to them I know.  After the weekend on the drive home, Vicki remarked how that at first the men didn't say much to her as she went about camp offering the lemonade and food.  But as the weekend went by and they got to know us, they became friendly and respectful, even offering to help her carry whatever she was walking through camp with.  And it made her feel a part of the event.
     Contrast that to this example.  Last year at a reenactment a women stopped by the tent for a lemonade.  I know her to be a hard working woman who cooks food for the men of her unit.  Being single, she does it out of a love of history and the enjoyment of reenacting.  She has adopted the unit she serves and adds a lot to their having a good weekend event.  (By the way, she usually wears a camp dress, but also at times wears a nice hoop skirt for the dance and such, showing a woman can do both.)  Anyway, back to the point of the story.  She came to our tent with her tin can for a refill of lemonade to eat with the meal she had just finished cooking.  And I caught that she was a bit exasperated.  Evidently the guys had all just come down to the tent for refills to go with the food and though her can was on the table, no one had thought to bring it and get her a lemonade.  And she noticed that she went "unnoticed".
     The women will notice they are honored even if they don't say so. 
     Vicki didn't come to the reenactment to be a celebrity.  She didn't come out of a deep love for history.  She came because her husband wanted to do this crazy hobby, and we were going to do it as a family, and she would find ways to make things go smoothly.  If God's given you such a woman as a wife, thank her often for being so gracious and loving.  If God's placed one or more caring women in your unit, thank them often by words and respectful actions.  Don't be like the spectators who don't know what it really takes to make a reenactment go well.