July’s After-action Report by Archie

“Forbidden, Hidden and Forgotten:
Women Soldiers of the Civil War”
Presented by Shelby Harriel
July 10 2017
Ms. Harriel told us about women who disguised themselves as men and served in the armies of the Confederacy & Union.
Among our subjects this year, the presentation by Ms. Harriel stands out as one presented with both scholarship and passion. Her use of audio-visual material, seasoned with humor, along with her own commentary, made the time go rapidly. It is the first presentation to be followed with quite an animated “buzz” around the room as we all wanted to speak with her, and each other, about the subject. We hope she may return to us some day.
The stories of the women she told us about gave us a real connection with a past generation of American women, the few who broke every convention of gender
behavior to experience at least some of their time upon the stage of history on
their own terms, dramatically proving the possibilities of individual personality.
Try and find a common motivation for all of these women and you will have a
lot of work to do. Their common denominator was a breaking of all of the rules in
their choosing to become soldiers. In a wonderful way, their breaking of Victorian
rules of gender behavior offers more unique insights into that time than any
encyclopedia of Victorian life possibly could. These are women who chose to live an
important part of their lives in contrast, rather than comparison, to their peers.
I would like to think the women who survived long enough to reflect may
have thought with Forrest Gump that “I am figgerin this: I can always look back an
say, at least I ain’t led no hum-drum life.”
After Shock
An interesting discussion took place after the presentation– about the
desecration of Confederate heritage symbolism in the South, such as the removal
of statuary. Insights from a classic book on totalitarian methods come to mind. In
Nineteen-Eighty Four George Orwell has members of “the party” delete all
unwanted facts of history by down a “memory hole,” allowing only the “party line” to
be remain as history. “This day-to-day falsification of the past, carried out by the Ministry of Truth, is as necessary to the stability of the regime as the work of repression and espionage carried out by the Ministry of Love.” “Who controls the past,” ran the party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” 1984
Contact Information for Shelby Harriel : shar_14_22@yahoo.com
Her Top Three Recommended Books on the Subject:
Blanton and Cook’s They Fought Like Demons,
Richard Hall’s Women on the Civil War Battlefront
Lauren Burgess’ An Uncommon Soldier.

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