Sunday, November 20, 2011

In response to our preceding post on reenacting, the following comment was offered.  We decided to answer in another post because we felt a clarifying response may serve to make our previous article more lucid as well:

Douglas John says:

"Were not the "Bluestockings" simply what were considered to be intellegent or advanced women? How did the connotation arrive that a bluestocking or intellectual woman of the 18th century was a feminist. The picture you paint of the genteel Christian southern woman is very nice however quite romanticized. The unfortunate exploits of women of the south during the War of the States have not truly been recorded in places where the public can become familiar with them. Much of the published literature about women in the 19th century focused on prescriptions for proper female behavior, expressing social norms formulated largely by men. Their writings described the ideal female, emphasizing the passivity of her Christian nature and her domestic attributes, and focused on middle-and upper-class urban women. The ACTUAL experiences of women who were forced (by blockade or otherwise) by circumstances to earn their own way or own living, of common women, of immigrant women, and of black women bore no relation to those established norms. Scrubbing pots near an open fire with a white apron and white bodice would be indicitive of an upper class woman pretending to be a common woman. While the intent of what you are saying is to be a soft portrayal of dependency and true womanhood, an honest living historian would realize that there were not a lot of menfolk Christian or otherwise in the South to depend upon and lead them. The picture is painted quite prettily but the reality is that the women who sacraficed were not at all able to compare to those you have relayed in your information."

Our response:

Douglas John, 

Thank you for taking the time to comment. We appreciate your thoughts on the subject. The connotations associated with “Bluestockings” are broad but the most commonly accepted is that of a feminist who is uneducated and intellectually negligent. Feminists were “advanced”... we believe in the wrong direction. It is true that the general attitude towards Victorian women in their time was often in need of reform due to the influence of Enlightenment philosophies declaring men to be reasonable and women to be purely emotional and unreasonable. Unfortunately, the men and women who were most influential in the feminist movement, in an attempt to rectify enlightenment errors, only made matters worse through continued disregard for the Word of God. Instead of establishing women and men as joint heirs of the grace of God, content in the complimentary roles preordained for them by God, they encouraged discontent, strident rebellion and independent autonomy among women taught to believe themselves ill-used victims under a Judeo-Christian paradigm. This brought about not mutual respect and honor between men and women but furthered destructive degradation of the “weaker sex” mirroring some of the most uncivilized and pagan societies in history.
Regarding romanticizing Christian Southern women; permit us to recommend a few resources for your further research. South Carolina Women of the Confederacy by Mrs. A. T. Smythe, The Women of the Confederacy by J.L. Underwood and The Women of the South in War Times by Matthew P. Andrews are source books recording ACTUAL women and their actions, not behavioral prescriptions. Dabney’s Life and Campaigns of Stonewall Jackson, Christ in the Camp by J. William Jones, and Beloved Bride - The Letters of Stonewall Jackson to His Wife, by Bill Potter are also excellent resources for understanding the Christian men and women of the time, describing what they actually thought and acted.
There is also extensive research on excellent women such as Mrs. Lee, Mrs. Jackson, Mrs. Stuart and other virtuous and thoroughly intelligent, influential women. Our article often directly reflects the perspectives we gleaned from journals concerning the character and convictions of these women. In the direct sources and biographies of the women we seek to emulate there is no trace of passivity. Their Christian character is ardent and unaffected; the phrases in their letters pattern after phrases in Scripture implying their thorough familiarity with it, bolstering their men with confidence in their righteous cause, assuring them of their support from home. They recognize the tremendous impact of domestic dependability and efficiency and delight in serving in this way.
Perhaps the low-class, common, uneducated women were numerically dominant. We honestly have not researched numeric denominations thoroughly as yet because it is not a crucial factor for us right now. Mrs. Dawn Eggers captured the intent of our article in her responding comment well. We are not primarily interested in portraying the “51% majority,” whether or not they are righteous. In other words, our primary concern IS portraying the righteous minority, however minute in numbers.
Concerning muslin Garibaldi blouses and Osnaburg aprons, both are visually documented among working women throughout the 1860’s. You may be interested in researching sources other than CDV’s where women appeared in their best matching bodice and skirt with starched white collar in anticipation of being formally photographed.
Lastly, we would like to say a word in defense of Southern men. We believe they together constituted one of the last significant Christian civil governments in latter times. Their eventual dissolution and loss of impetus was simply God’s judgement on a nation which persists in rebellion and seeks not the Law of God.  Jefferson Davis, Thomas Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and other Southern men were some of the most remarkable leaders in history comparable to George Washington, Monroe, Admiral Coligny, Joshua Son of Nun, William of Orange, James Polk, and Napoleon Bonaparte (militarily). Their wives testify to their greatness and honor through their unmitigated, informed devotion and unfaltering loyalty.
A little more research may reveal that our short paraphrase was merely scratching the surface of a most beautiful deeply, characteristically Christian culture, the remnants of God’s special grace in the foundations of our nation. Alexis De Tocqueville (a French lawyer and historian analyzing American culture) paints a far prettier picture in his remarkably insightful work, Democracy in America, written in the 1830‘s, wherein he describes how the very topography of America was conducive to productivity and dominion. He also outlines the vastly different ethics in North and South and predicts their incompatibility. Interestingly, he notes, “I have no hesitation in saying that although the American woman never leaves her domestic sphere and is in some respects very dependent within it, nowhere does she enjoy a higher station. And if anyone asks me what I think the chief cause of the extraordinary prosperity and growing power of this nation, I should answer that it is due to the superiority of their women.”
Humbly in the service of our King,

Emily and Aubrey Lenz

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