A Passion for the Past or Why I Study History
When I first embarked on the venture of Living History, I looked forward to not only bringing history to life for others, but also getting into some deeper historical research for my own writing. It ended up becoming much more than that.
I've been doing this for probably a little over a year now (close to a year and a half), and in addition to getting an even better grasp on history than before (which really fuels the history lover in me), opportunities in music, acting, and writing opened up. I've also gained even richer insights to my already pretty nuanced views of history.
Speaking of my nuanced view of history, one thing I always make a point of doing in studying any era is to try and acquire a complete picture of all that was taking place in a given time, including the statutes of the day, the political climate, what happened previously that might have been the cause of such a political climate, and any other pesky nuances that might contribute to connecting with the past on a deeper level. This is in opposition to the more basic 'on the surface' view that many seem to have. In the midst of it all, I found myself wanting to tell these more nuanced views of history and therefore try and quell the many preconceived notions that seems to cloud our vision of the distant past. Yes, studying history can be overwhelming and perhaps that is at least part of why many tend to take that basic surface only approach that also feeds many historical myths. When asked where to start, I usually tell people to begin with Mary Miley Theobald's book Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked along with her accompanying website. Of course, I don't necessarily agree with everything she says (you'll have that with anyone, though) but it is a great place to be opened up to seeing which historical events might need a little further investigation in order to have a more well-rounded outlook on bygone times.
As a subscriber to Jas. Townsend's newsletter and YouTube Channel, I find much of his insights extremely valuable (Jas. Townsend & Son is a great source, particularly great if you are looking to get into Living History), not only as a reenactor, but also as someone that considers herself a lifelong student of history. There was one issue of his newsletter that especially jumped out at me and if I may, here is a passages from it:
I've read of such accounts from other historical sites as well, when the tourist seems to think that women were merely subservient housewives (one reason why - according to Jas. Townsend and other sources - women are also hesitant when exploring the idea of being involved with Living History) and are often shocked when they learn of women working in a place like a printing press or blacksmith shop. Usually the tourist in question assumes that the museum is fulfilling some sort of 'equal opportunity clause' when in reality what they are seeing is historical accuracy. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say things along the lines of "wow, that's the opposite of what you normally hear!" While I am always happy to clear those details up for them, it is troubling to see just how skewed a lot of it is.
Colonial Williamsburg's website has some excellent articles on the contributions of women throughout history and how, oftentimes, seeing a woman working at a printing press, owning a tavern, etc, really was not considered all that unusual for many in Colonial society:
Women's Service in the Revolutionary Army
Gentlewomen of the Press
With All the Grace of the Sex (also includes a brief podcast)
According to the article, "Gentlewomen of the Press":