Tag Archive | Women

Object: Quilt

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2014.5.1
Quilt
African- American
United States
1950-1959
Materials: Cloth/Thread/Cotton

This object is a quilt, made in the 1950s, in the African- American tradition of quilt-making.   An appraiser from Antiques Roadshow was able to identify it based on the style, construction, and materials used.  It appears to be hand-quilted and pieced, assembled in the strip construction technique, in which strips of scrap fabric were sewn together to create a pattern.

Kente cloth weaver in Ghana. Image by aripeskoe2, via WikiMedia Commons

Kente cloth weaver in Ghana. Image by r aripeskoe2, via WikiMedia Commons

African textile traditions have not been well-documented in comparison to other types of folk art, however, it is thought that their origins can be traced back to four civilizations of Central and West Africa.  In Africa, most textiles were made by men.  It wasn’t until African slaves were brought to the United States that women took over the tradition, with work being divided based on Western gender roles.

By the time African-American quilting had become a tradition, it had been combined with traditions from the Caribbean, Central American, and southern United States.  However, some distinct characteristics survived, and can still be identified in quilts today.  Bold colors, strips of fabric, and symbolism are all dominant features in African-American quilting.

Large shapes and bright colors were used in African tribes to distinguish people from far distances.  The ability to identify different warring tribes or hunting parties was crucial to survival.  This use of bold colors and oversized shapes has endured in African- American textiles.

Combined with that is a distinct tradition of asymmetrical patterns and improvised designs.  There are many reasons for this.  The ability to change or alternate the pattern allowed quilters to get the most use of scrap fabrics, as opposed to a repeating pattern, that required specific colors in set quantities.

More importantly, breaks in patterns held  great symbolism for African cultures.  A break in pattern could symbolize rebirth in the power of the wearer or creator of the quilt.  Pattern breaks were also believed to keep away evil.  It was believed that evil traveled in a straight line, and by breaking the pattern, evil spirits would become confused and be slowed down.  Improvising the patterning also ensured that the pattern could not be copied, and gave the creator and owner and strong sense of ownership and creativity.

Pictorial Quilt by Harriet Powers. Image by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, via WikiMedia Commons.

Pictorial Quilt by Harriet Powers. Image by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, via WikiMedia Commons.

Once in the United States, African quilts took on even more meaning.  Many women would create story quilts, in which they would applique pictures onto their quilts.  By doing this, they could record their family history- like a photo album- or tell a story in pictures. One of the most famous women to create story quilts was a freed slave named Harriet Powers.  In 1896, she created an intricately-crafted quilt which she entitled “Bible Quilt”, depicting several Biblical stories.  In 1898, she crafted the “Pictorial Quilt”, illustrating three rows of Bible stories, historical events, and significant weather anomalies.  The “Pictorial Quilt” now hangs at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, and the “Bible Quilt” is housed at the Smithsonian Institution.

Few examples of African- American quilting tradition have survived through the years.  They were considered necessities rather than luxuries, and most were worn out.  However, men and women of African descent have kept the essence of the traditions alive, and are illustrated in pieces such as this quilt from the 1950s.  What was once  simply a functional piece of bedding, we know know is artistry to be preserved and celebrated. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Hicks, Kyra E.  Black Threads: An African American Quilting Sourcebook.  Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2003.

Lyons, Mary E.  Stitching Stars: The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers.  New York: Scribner’s Sons; Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada; New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1993.

Wahlman, Maude.  Signs and Symbols: African Images in African American Quilts.  Atlanta, GA: Tinwood, 2001.

Wilson, Sule Greg.  African American Quilting: The Warmth of Tradition.  New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 1999.

Object: Card game

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FIC2013.160
Trivia Card Game
American
Galveston, TX
1907/1908
Material: paper

This object is a trivia card game called “Texas Heroes: An Instructive Game,” created by Sally Trueheart Williams in 1908. The cards have three to five questions listed with a picture of the answer above. The people on the cards are those widely known by Texans, such as James Bowie, Sam Houston, David Crockett and many others. There are also historic places included that also have an important role in the history of Texas such as San Antonio, Nacogdoches, and Austin.  A pamphlet is included with testimonials from Texas educators promoting the game as a useful educational tool.

Sally Trueheart Williams

Sally Trueheart Williams. Image via the Rosenberg Library Museum of Galveston.

Sally T. Williams (1871-1951) daughter of Henry M. Trueheart and Annie Vanmeter Cunningham, was an active member of the Galveston, Texas community. She had a passion for history, education, and charity. She was member of the Equal Suffrage Club, the Wednesday Club, First Presbyterian Church, American Red Cross, Daughters of the Confederacy, Daughters of the American Revolution, and Colonial Dames.

In 1900, a hurricane devastated much of Texas, in Galveston over 3,000 buildings were destroyed and around 6,000 people were killed. In the wake of the storm the American Red Cross, founded by Clara Barton, played a large role in the relief efforts. Women’s clubs and associations in the area also volunteered, thus women had more visible public roles in the community. The efforts of these women’s civics clubs evolved to a suffrage movement. As a member of the Equal Suffrage Club, Sally T. Williams stood for the right of women to vote and argued that municipal maintenance can be compared to public ‘housekeeping.’ The argument was an attempt to convince other women that participating in women’s suffrage was not violating the traditional roles of women in the home.

Women’s clubs in the late 1800s to early 1900s gave way to the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs (TFWC) which encouraged progressive movements and activism. The TFWC has accomplished and influenced numerous developments in Texas such as children’s health laws, traffic and highway safety, food purity standards, and historical preservation, to name a few. In its infancy, the TFWC consisted of mainly wealthy women and teachers, though today the membership is much more diverse. Many of the projects and activities of the federation have become the responsibility of the government in modern times, however the TFWC is still active and takes on projects involving aid to abused women and cancer patients and their families. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources

Jones, Marian Moser. 2013;2012;. The american red cross from clara barton to the new deal. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press

Goldfield, David. 2013. Still fighting the civil war LSU Press.

McArthur, Judith N., and Harold L. Smith. 2010. Texas through women’s eyes: The twentieth-century experience. 1st ed. Vol. bk. 24. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Megan Seaholm, “Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs,” Handbook of Texas Online, June 15, 2010. Texas State Historical Association

Turner, Elizabeth Hayes, and Inc NetLibrary. 1997. Women, culture, and community: Religion and reform in galveston, 1880-1920. New York: Oxford University Press.

Object: Doll

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I-0277tt
Doll
Japanese
Unknown date, likely 20th Century
Materials: Cloth, hair, Ceramic

Chikanobu Toyohara, Foxfires, 1898.The print depicts Yaegaki-hime carrying the helmet of the warrior Shingen as she dances amidst magical foxfires.  Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Chikanobu Toyohara, Foxfires, 1898.The print depicts Yaegaki-hime carrying the helmet of the warrior Shingen as she dances amidst magical foxfires. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This Japanese doll is a depiction of princess Yaegaki-Hime, the heroine of a five-act drama called Honcho Nijushiko or The 24 Models of Filial Piety. This drama was originally preformed in 1766 as a Bunraku, a Japanese puppet theater originating in Osaka, and then became a popular drama in the live acting Kabuki theater. The character of the princess Yaegaki-Hime has gained fame through the Bunraku and Kabuki plays. The Yaegaki-Hime doll presented depicts her holding the legendary helmet that had been gifted to a samurai lord named Takeda Shingen by a fox god called Suwa Myojin. The helmet is enchanted to protect the samurai who wears it so that the samurai will always win and, when in need, the helmet would summon 808 foxes to protect the owner. In the famous scene of heroinism, Yaegaki saves her lover, Katsuyori, from the wrath of her father. He had sent two men to kill Katsuyori because of a family feud, Yaegaki prayed there was something she could do and mourned for her lover. She touched the enchanted helmet and became possessed by its power, with the protection of two white foxes she ran across a frozen lake to warn Katsuyori. The climax of both Bunraku and Kabuki plays is Yaegaki’s dance as she becomes possessed by the fox spirit and saves Katsuyori. The story ends as the family feud is resolved, the lovers marry and live happily ever after.

A Japanese man plays a shamisen while another man sings. Photo by Rdsmith4, via Wikimedia Commons.

A Japanese man plays a shamisen while another man sings. Photo by Rdsmith4, via Wikimedia Commons.

In the Bunraku tradition, scenes are narrated by musical chanting with the accompaniment of a shamisen, which is a stringed instrument of the lute family. The narrator voices the characters using a unique emotional vocal style for each character, sometimes for important scenes there may be multiple narrators chanting together. The puppeteer, or chief handler, also plays a role in narrating the story with his own exaggerated facial expressions, he would operate the head and right hand while 2 assistants, dressed and hooded in black, control the left hand and lower body movement.

The tradition of puppet theater in Japan stems from 11th century traveling story tellers and may have been influenced by Central Asia. The style of puppets has evolved from simplistic, hand-less and leg-less puppets to intricate full bodied puppets with moveable mouths and eyes. Japanese puppet theater was considered a sophisticated, adult pastime and was immensely popular the during the Tokugwa, or Edo, Period (1600-1868). The Japanese puppet theater did not gain the name ‘Bunraku’ until the late 18th century, it derives from the troupe established by Uemura Bunrakuken in Osaka, Japan. The plays for the puppet theater were written playbooks, published in authorized editions and, at the height of the puppeteering tradition over 1,000 plays were written and performed.

A new type of Japanese entertainment emerged in the beginning of the 17th century called Kabuki, where women would play both male and female parts in storytelling with song and dance. Many of the stories in the original Kabuki tradition were those of everyday life however, many of the successful Bunraku plays were adapted for the Kabuki stage. During this period, when women played the roles, Kabuki was not deemed as sophisticated as its puppeteering counterpart. The themes of these stories were often comical, suggestive and the women were usually prostitutes. The Shogunate banned women from acting to discourage prostitution and became a tradition of performance with a completely male cast. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Visit the Asian Festival at the Institute of Texan Cultures on February 4th to see live performances of Asian music and dance.

Additional Resources:

Kennedy, Dennis. The Oxford Companion to Theatre and Performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Levinson, David, and Karen Christensen. Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002.

Sasaguchi, Rei. “A Master of Many Voices: Living National Treasure Tells a Bunraku Classic.” The Japan Times, September 5, 2001.

Object: Shoes

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I-0601a
Shoes
Salvatore Ferragamo Shoes
Italian
1960s
Materials: Leather, Thread

This object is a pair of black and white leather spectator pumps, designed by the Italian designer Salvatore Ferragamo and owned by Lady Bird Johnson.  They were loaned to the Institute of Texan Cultures for a temporary exhibit called “Footprints and Imprints” showcasing famous and influential people through their shoes, and later donated to the museum.

Photo portrait of First Lady Lady Bird Johnson in the back yard of the White House. Photo by Robert Knudsen, White House Press Office (WHPO), via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo portrait of First Lady Lady Bird Johnson in the back yard of the White House. Photo by Robert Knudsen, White House Press Office (WHPO), via Wikimedia Commons.

Lady Bird Johnson became the 36th First Lady of the United States when her husband, Lyndon B. Johnson, was sworn in as president following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Born Claudia Alta Taylor, Lady Bird received her nickname at an early age, when a nursemaid stated that she was “as purty as a lady bird.”  The nickname stuck, and for the rest of her life she was known as Lady Bird.  Though her father and brothers called her “Lady,” her husband called her “Bird,” and that’s what she signed on her marriage certificate.

In the 1930s, Mrs. Johnson attended the University of Texas in Austin, earning degrees in History and Journalism.  During that time, she met Lyndon B. Johnson, and in 1934 they were married in San Antonio at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

When Johnson became President in 1963, Lady Bird focused her energies on her first love- the environment.  The country was facing uncertain times, and Washington, D.C. was in need of a facelift.  Having grown up in the outdoors of far East Texas, Lady Bird had an appreciation and respect for the natural beauty of landscapes and wildflowers.

As First Lady, she embarked on a beautification project, which was named the Society for a More Beautiful National Capital.  The project consisted of planting millions of flowers throughout Washington, D.C., including tulips, daffodils, roses, and the dogwood and cherry blossom trees that the Capital is so well known for. She stated at the time that “where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

Cherry blossoms and the Washington Monument. Image by Wendy Harman, via Wikimedia Commons.

Cherry blossoms and the Washington Monument. Image by Wendy Harman, via Wikimedia Commons.

This proved to be just the start of what became a national campaign, and in 1965, the Highway Beautification Act was passed.  Through this Act, Lady Bird was instrumental in restricting junk yards and limiting billboards along highways throughout the country, in addition to promoting wildflower plantings along interstates all over the country.

Mrs. Johnson wasn’t just interested in beautification, but also in conservation.  One method she used to bring attention to her campaign was to visit historic sites, national parks, and scenic areas.  By taking along the head of the National Parks Service, dignitaries, and media, Lady Bird was able to shine a spotlight on the natural beauty that was in danger of being destroyed all over the country.

After leaving Washington, Lady Bird Johnson focused her attention on Texas.  She was the force behind developing ten miles of beautiful hike and bike trails around Town Lake in Austin.  In 1982, she teamed up with her friend, actress Helen Hayes, to found the National Wildflower Research Center.  In 1995, it was moved to 279 acres in southwest Austin and renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.   The center is dedicated to conservation, education, and beautification through the use of locally available plants and flowers.  It is now one of the country’s most credible research institutions, and is run by The University of Texas.

Lady Bird Johnson saw a need to preserve and protect our nation’s natural beauty before it was destroyed by industry.  Her imprint can be seen every spring, driving the roads of Texas, or visiting the nation’s Capital.  She was instrumental in making environment issues a priority for our country.  She lived a legacy foretold by her nanny when she was given the nickname “Lady Bird.”  Lady Bird Johnson truly left a lasting impact through her work, and because of her, we can still call our country “America the Beautiful.” [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Gould, Lewis L.  Lady Bird Johnson: Our Environmental First Lady.  Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1999.

Johnson, Lady Bird and Carlton B Lees.  Wildflowers Across America.  Austin, TX: National Wildflower Research Center; New York: Abbeville Press, 1988.

Johnson, Lady Bird and Michael L. Gillette.  Lady Bird Johnson: An Oral History.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Loughmiller, Campbell, Lynn Loughmiller, and Lynn Sherrod.  Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide.  Austin: University of Texas Press, 1984.

Object: Handbill

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I-0398d
Handbill
Womans Pavilion for HemisFair 1968
American
ca. 1968
Materials: Paper/Ink

This is a brochure from the Woman’s Pavilion for HemisFair ’68 requesting donations. Sister Mary Corita of the Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, California designed the cover. The cover features the words, “The joyous responsibility of being a woman and as a woman responsible for joy.” The inside of the pamphlet has a quote attributed to Carl Sandburg “There is only one woman in the world, and her name is All Woman.”

Mrs. Winfield S. Hamlin (left), president of the Women's Pavilion at HemisFair

Mrs. Winfield S. Hamlin (left), president of the Women’s Pavilion at HemisFair

The President and Principal Executive Officer/Protocol Officer of the group behind the construction of the Woman’s Pavilion was Vivian Johnson Hamlin Terrett, also known as Mrs. Winfield S. Hamlin. Her responsibilities included supervising all the meetings and directing the activities of the staff involved. The purpose of the pavilion was to exhibit the contributions of women to society from all over the world. In January of 1967 Nellie B. Connally sponsored a luncheon at the La Paloma del Rio Restaurant in San Antonio which two hundred women attended to lend their support. Fay Sinkin, the president of the League of Women Voters, hosted the first coffee party benefiting the effort. Membership included up to 12,000 women from all over the world. The Woman’s Pavilion was the only one at the HemisFair built from the contributions of individuals. The architect, Cyrus Wagner, and Margaret Lynn Batts Tobin worked together to design the building. It featured 12,000 square feet of space meant to be used after the HemisFair ended. The building included a recording studio and a wall made of clay tiles with the hand prints of its founders.

After the charter obtained funding, Lady Bird Johnson participated in the dedication of the pavilion. Admission to the Woman’s Pavilion during Hemisfair was $1 for adults and 50¢ for children. Jewelry by Jeweler Irena Brynner, a sculpture called “Madre y Nino” by Bolivian Sculptor Marina Nunez del Prado, and artwork by Magazine Photographer Maria Martel were exhibited at the pavilion. During HemisFair, women volunteers staffed the pavilion.

An aerial view of the model for the Women’s Pavilion circa 1968

An aerial view of the model for the Women’s Pavilion circa 1968

After HemisFair ended, the intention was to make the building the home of the Inter-American Institute. The Institute would focus its research on different cultures, hosting seminars and housing a library that would include major works from different cultures. However, after HemisFair, the building reverted to the city of San Antonio and then was deeded to the University of Texas at San Antonio.  Eventually, the building fell into disuse and ended up as a storage warehouse for UTSA. The land was finally returned to the city and efforts to restore the building began. The Executive Director of the original project, Sherry Kafka Wagner, is now the President of the Women’s Pavilion board. The Women’s Pavilion board hopes to restore the building for future public events and women-focused exhibits, renamed as the San Antonio Women’s Pavilion at HemisFair Park. Currently, the city is working to revive the Hemisfair Park Area and provide the public with homes, businesses, and cultural spaces in the heart of San Antonio. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Crowder, Richard. Carl Sandburg. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1964.

Holmsely, Sterlin. Hemisfair ’68 and the Transformation of San Antonio. San Antonio: Maverick, 2003.

Stuhler, Barbara. For the Public Record: A Documentary History of the League of Women Voters. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Women’s Pavilion at HemisFair Park, Inc. Women’s Pavilion at HemisFair Park, Inc, 2008. Web.

Object: Magazine

I-0569i (2)
I-0569i
Magazine
“The Saturday Evening Post”
American
March 1911
Materials: Paper/Ink

This object is an issue of “The Saturday Evening Post” from March 1911. The cover features the illustration of a woman wearing a broad brim hat, a white blouse, and holding a pink chain purse. She is checking her makeup in the mirror.  The featured article included with the illustration is “The Sin of Homeliness, the Duty of Every Woman to Be Well Dressed” by Dr. Woods Hutchinson. In the article, Dr. Hutchinson says that “beauty is the outward visible sign” of health. The article stresses the importance of attire to the appearance of a woman’s beauty. This includes buying the highest quality clothing that can be afforded.

Bianca Lyons in a dress, circa 1902

Bianca Lyons in a dress, circa 1902

The general public used to look negatively at women of the lower class who wore clothing similar to upper class women. They were viewed with distrust and judgment. The best fashions were only associated with the rich. The lower class was expected to buy clothing for its function and not its fashion. Women were made to feel embarrassed of their desire to imitate the look of wealth. In the case of women who lived in rural areas, women were made to fear fashion as a threat to their financial security. A writer from the Ladies Home Journal suggested that men could trace the source of their poverty to the expensive clothing and jewelry they gave to their female family members. However, more and more magazines were encouraging female readers to purchase upper class fashions. Popular magazines had increased in circulation from around 18 million in 1890 to 64 million in 1905. Articles similar to the one Dr. Woods wrote, which encouraged women to purchase up and coming expensive fashions, increased. The Ladies’ Home Journal emphasized the value of clothing when the editorial staff congratulated women for dressing well in 1923.

In reaction to a growing demand for cheaper fashions, programs started to develop around the country delivering advice to women on how to dress stylish inexpensively. The Cornell Extension Program offered presentations, the most popular of which was “The Well Dressed Woman” in 1924. Up to 4,597 rural women were known to attend these programs. Because some women sewed their own clothes at home, in 1863 the Butterick Publishing Company started to sell sewing patterns modeled after the popular styles of the time.

Patent US1313496” detailing the back of the “Deltor” Butterick pattern for an evening dress, from August 19, 1919 via Wikimedia Commons

Patent US1313496” detailing the back of the “Deltor” Butterick pattern for an evening dress, from August 19, 1919 via Wikimedia Commons

As serious shoppers, women helped to increase consumerism in the twentieth century.  The upper class were always changing their style in order to separate themselves from the lower classes that were copying them. Because of the constant changes, the demand for accessible fashion increased, stimulating production. Advances in technology allowed for the creation of the assembly line . As technology grew, so too did storefronts.  Between 1886 and 1912, the recorded number of chain stores increased from two chains with five stores total to 177 chains with 2,235 stores. The department store also increased in popularity. The department store embodied elements of smaller stores, offering multiple products to their customers. The first department store was opened in New York City in September 1848 called The Marble Palace, also known as A.T. Stewart Dry Goods Store. In 1877, R.H. Macy & Co in New York occupied 11 buildings. By 1924, it relocated to Herald Square and occupied more than 1 million square feet of space.

A.T. Stewart’s Retail Store, Broadway and 10th Street” circa 1860-1905, via Wikimedia Commons

A.T. Stewart’s Retail Store, Broadway and 10th Street” circa 1860-1905, via Wikimedia Commons

Some scholars suggest that the response to women’s consumer needs led to a growth in mass manufacturing and led to the consumer society we live in today. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Carter, Ernestine and Diana Vreeland. The Changing World of Fashion: 1900 to the Present. New York: Putnam, 1977.

Damon-Moore, Helen. Magazines for the Millions: Gender and Commerce in the Ladies’ Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post, 1880-1910. Albandy: State University of New York Press, 1994.

Mower, Ralph M. History of Macy’s of New York, 1858-1919: Chapters in the Evolution of the Department Store. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1943.

Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. World Clothing and Fashion: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Social Influence. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, Inc, 2014.

Object: Painting

I-0206w3

I-0206w3
Painting
“Rosanna Osterman in Galveston, 1862”
Bruce Marshall
American
20th Century
Materials: Paint/Paper/Metal/Glass

This object is a framed original watercolor by Bruce Marshall entitled “Rosanna Osterman in Galveston, 1862.” Rosanna Osterman was a Jewish resident of Texas known for her work as a nurse during the Civil War. She was born in Germany in 1809 and moved to Maryland as a child. She married Amsterdam native Joseph Osterman, a silversmith and merchant who established a mercantile business in Galveston in 1838. Rosanna joined him in Galveston in 1839. When the town was overrun by a yellow fever epidemic in 1853, Rosanna operated a makeshift hospital on her family’s property to help care for the sick. As more epidemics swept through Galveston, evidence suggests she continued to volunteer as a nurse during these outbreaks. In 1862 the Civil War came to Galveston and the widow Rosanna again opened her home as a hospital, this time to both Union and Confederate soldiers. When citizens started to flee the city, she continued to care for the sick and injured. In addition to her nursing duties, Rosanna carried military information for the confederate army. In recognition of her nursing services, the 8th Texas Infantry regiment published a letter praising her in the Galveston News. She died in February of 1866 in a steamboat explosion aboard the W.R. Carter.

Dorothea Dix

Dorothea Dix Via: Wikimedia Commons

Many women wanted to help during the Civil War but were initially discouraged from contributing on both the Union and Confederate sides. In the north, women had to deal with male colleagues who thought they didn’t belong. In the south, women were denied permission to work as nurses for fear the experience might expose them to the horrors of war. However, as the war progressed, both the Union and Confederate armies changed their policies. Two months after the war began, the United States Secretary of War Simon Cameron appointed Dorothea Dix as Superintendent of Women Nurses. Dorothea was in charge of organizing and staffing the military hospitals. She also established specific criteria for her contracted nurses which included: a minimum age of 30, the ability to pay their own way, 2 letters of recommendation, and sobriety. Dorothea discouraged single women from joining for fear of exposing them to strange men and the hostilities of war. In August of 1861 the United States Congress authorized the Surgeon General to employ female nurses and as compensation paid them about $12 a month, plus food rations. Several northern women operated as nurses under the U.S. Sanitary Commission. The following year (1862) the Confederate Congress passed a law allowing civilians to serve in military hospitals, including women.

When the Civil War began, there were no formal schools to train nurses. Volunteer nurses were largely inexperienced. Instead, they received their education on the job. Civil War nurses had a lot of responsibilities. Among them, nurses had to change bandages, tend wounds, dispense medicine, pass out supplies, write letters on behalf of soldiers, cook and serve meals, and wash the laundry. In the course of their duties, they risked exposure to communicable diseases in unsuitable conditions as well as exposure to the dangers of the battlefield. Makeshift hospitals were overrun with the wounded and dying. But many women continued to volunteer. About 3,300 women served as nurses for the Union Army from 1861-1865 The number of confederate nurses is unknown, but the number seems to be in the thousands.

Civil War Nurse Anne Bell caring for soldiers in Nashville, Tennessee ca. 1861-1865

Civil War Nurse Anne Bell caring for soldiers in Nashville, Tennessee ca. 1861-1865 Via: Wikimedia Commons

The efforts of women during the Civil War transformed the profession. The war shifted the range of nursing from the home to the hospital. It was Clara Barton, a Civil War nurse veteran, who founded the American Red Cross in 1881. In 1868 the president of the American Medical Association, Samuel Gross advocated for the creation of an official nursing school. The first formal nursing school in Texas was founded in 1890 by John Sealy hospital in Galveston. Thanks to the men and women who volunteered as nurses during the Civil War, nursing has become an integral part of the health profession that we benefit from anytime we need medical attention. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Alcott, Louisa May. 1993. Hospital sketches. Chester, CT: Applewood Books

Devine, Shauna. Learning from the Wounded: The Civil War and the Rise of American Medical Science. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2014.

Favor, Lesli J, PhD. Women Doctors and Nurses of the Civil War. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc, 2004.

Judd, Deborah, Kathleen Sitzman, G. Megan Davis. A History of American Nursing: Trends and Eras. Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2010.

Object: Drawing

I-0206c3

I-0206c3
Drawing
“Mary Crownover Rabb Churning”
Michael Waters
American
20th century
Materials: Paper and ink

This object is a pen and ink drawing titled “Mary Crownover Rabb Churning” by Michael Waters. Mary Crownover Rabb wrote one of the first accounts of early life on the Texas frontier. Mary penned her story of life on the frontier for her children and grandchildren to read. Originally born in North Carolina in 1805, Mary met and married John Rabb in 1821 and in 1823 their family moved to Stephen F. Austin’s colony in Texas. Over the course of their life in Texas, the Rabb family moved several times, establishing temporary homes along the Brazos and Colorado rivers. Mary’s life was not without hardship. When John was away on business, she would try to ease the children’s fear of the nearby Karankawa and Tonkawa Indians. The family lost one of their homes to flooding. Later, when Texans fled their homes in 1836 in fear of Santa Anna’s forces known as the Runaway Scrape, one of Mary’s children died. Her description of those first few years in Texas was published under the title Travels and Adventures in Texas in the 1820’s.

Painting of Stephen F. Austin, 1840 via Wikimedia Commons

Painting of Stephen F. Austin, 1840 via Wikimedia Commons

Life on the Texas frontier was hard for early pioneer women. Many Anglo-American women who journeyed to Texas migrated with their families. At the time, women were expected to stay home while men went virtually everywhere else. Women managed all the child-rearing responsibilities including education and socialization. But they also helped to clear land and plant crops. They were also in charge of sewing all their families clothing. Women who were fortunate enough to be literate expressed themselves and cataloged their experience in diaries and letters. Similar to the works of notable pioneer woman Laura Ingalls Wilder, early women writers in Texas provided information on what life was like at the time.

A number of pioneer women provided early accounts of life in frontier Texas. Stephen F. Austin’s cousin, Mary Austin Holley, wrote Texas: Observations, Historical, Geographical, and Descriptive, in a Series of Letters, Written during a Visit to Austin’s Colony, with a view to a permanent settlement in that country, in the Autumn of 1831, which was published in 1833. Her family letters and diary gave a good record of life during the Texas Revolution.  She later wrote a book titled Texas which detailed the history of the state and it is one of the first known histories of  the state in English.  Jane Cazneau published Eagle Pass; or Life on the Border under the pen name Cora Montgomery in 1852. Her book detailed the years between 1840-1852 during which her husband founded a town and opened a trade depot. Teresa G. Viele wrote Following the Drum: A Glimpse of Frontier Life in 1858. The book described the years she and her husband Egbert Ludovicus Viele stayed at Fort Ringgold. It included descriptions of the landscape, food, and Comanche raiders.

Luara Ingalls Wilder

Luara Ingalls Wilder Via Wikimedia Commons

Pioneer women writers in Texas also used their literary talents to fight for the right to vote and advocate for social reform. Female writers in Texas have written everything from poetry to novels. One of the first articles dedicated to the history of female writers in Texas was a two-part article titled “Women Writers of Texas” in 1893 by Bride N. Taylor, vice president of Texas Women’s Press Association, which ran in the Galveston Daily News. It gave brief biographies of more than 70 female authors starting with Mary Austin Holley. Since frontier times, Texas has had a long, rich history of female authors who contributed to the state’s literary legacy. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Exley, Jo Ella Powell. Texas Tears and Texas Sunshine: Voices of Frontier Women. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1985.

Holley, Mary Austin. Mary Austin Holley; The Texas Diary, 1835-1838. Austin: University of Texas, 1965.

Rabb, Mary Crownover. Travels and Adventures in Texas in the 1820’S, Being the Reminiscences of Mary Crownover Rabb. Waco: W.M. Morrison, 1962.

Schlissel, Lillian. Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey. New York: Schocken Books, 1982.

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