Well this past Sunday was my first actual day of living in the 18th century. Meaning, it was my first day as a costumed interpreter at the Depreciation Lands Museum.
I was actually pretty nervous about "getting it right" and forgot to take the first time selfie before heading to my post at the schoolhouse. Ah well. Next time.
At the museum (which is both indoor and outdoor depending on which part of the museum you are in/at), we are required to not only be in period attire but to speak as though we are actual citizens during that time as well (if you've ever been to Williamsburg, you probably have an idea of what we do). We also have to come up with our own character/person to portray, and this can be either a person who actually lived in the area during that time or someone of our own imagining. My person is one of my own imagining, and her name is Sadie Marie Miller. She is a teacher at the schoolhouse and I was able to teach a couple classes and demonstrate and speak of how children went to school during the 18th century. And let me tell you, like everything else, education really did vary depending on the area, whether they were city or country dwellers, whether they lived in northern or southern states, whether you were upper, middle, or lower class, etc. As I delve deeper into researching (and now also reenacting) history, I learn more and more of how complex it really is and how it really isn't as cut and dry as the media and much of the mainstream seems to make it out to be. I have pondered and wondered why this is many times as I've written and did research for my own historical fiction. I have also wondered why Hollywood often ignores much historical fact when making historical films. Same thing with books. Perhaps it is because they are going more for shock and entertainment value instead of a more educational value? And if this is so, why (as the true stories are often far more intriguing than anything dreamed up in some conglomerate's office)? And even if what the mainstream typically presents to us may not be completely historically inaccurate, why do they often stick with the "same old" status quo instead of seeking out new information typically not discussed that might add more depth, make for a much more interesting story, and possibly even offer the plot and characters a little more of an arch (which was/is my main beef with The Flappers Series)?
I can't say I'm an authority on the answer to that, but what I can do is quote the excellent article by FrockFlicks.com titled The Gross 18th Century: Calling Bullshit on Hygiene Myths (and I know I've linked to this article before, but if you haven't read it yet, it is worth reading):
"By now we’re all sick and tired of the tired mantra that “people don’t want a history lesson when they go see a movie,” as though there’s something highly distasteful about being exposed to facts instead of made up bullshit about the lives of people who lived before, and that modern audiences have no hope of relating to. I don’t know about you, but I find that mentality hugely insulting."
As I have mentioned previously, in the short time that I have been involved with the Depreciation Lands Museum, I have been given access to information that I wish I had had while starting to write The Birthrite Series. However, because the series is just beginning, there is plenty of room for it to grow. And grow it shall. :)
In a previous post, I mentioned how in some areas, it was not all that unusual for a woman to be seen working in a blacksmith's shop despite it often being described as a man's profession. As told to me by the Depreciation Museum's blacksmith, women did make nails and other small objects for extra money. So yes, I do plan to learn a little blacksmithing in the future. :)
Also, in between groups of people, I had the opportunity to sit down at the teacher's desk and read through some of the McGuffey Readers, a very common series of schoolbooks used in the 19th century. The McGuffey Readers started with the most basic primers for small children who had just learned their alphabet from what was called a horn book. These primers started with a basic course in annunciation along with maintaining a learning of the alphabet. It also included basic rhymes and stories. The McGuffey Readers increase in difficulty up to a sixth level reader, which was for about junior high and into high school ages. The sixth level McGuffey readers continued the lessons in proper pronunciation and annunciation while education students in the works of Shakespeare, Homer, and the like.
One common misconception is that children were always well-behaved and received severe punishment if they acted up. Now, the latter part of that statement is pretty historically accurate, and while the utmost respectable behavior was very much encouraged in children, that doesn't mean they didn't act up if they thought they could get away with it. According to Leonard Everett Fisher's book, Nineteenth Century America: The Schools, there are documents from early to mid 1800s of when political movements were being made in attempts to improve the overall quality of the schools, that it was found that several students had in fact defaced school property, writing or carving things "that would make heathens blush."
While this might not come as a shock to some people, I have heard people in conversation state how even as recent as the 1950s, "young people didn't even know what puberty was". Um...seriously??? Even those growing up in strict, conservative households at the time usually at least heard of it from their peers, even if some might not have been permitted to talk of it at home. Not being permitted to discuss it and not knowing of it are two different things. And while there might have been a group that actually wasn't aware of "where babies come from," this is yet another example of how many do tend to regurgitate outrageous misinformation. And yes, I have talked to people who lived back then. Many, many times.
There is much more I do want to delve into in future posts, such as the nice amount of pro-Native American works published back in the day. I'm also taking a Drop Spindle class at the Depreciation Lands Museum this Friday evening, which I will blog about. And this passed Sunday, I also picked up a quill pen in the museum's mercantile shop. I just need to get an inkwell and I will be practicing writing with a quill. :)
In the meantime though, I am going to get back to writing Kindred (the Birthrite Series, #2) and prepping for the cover reveal that is to take place on June 29th.
And check out author Megan Cashman's interview with me at her website.
And for a chance to win free ebooks and a giftcard, check out my interview with April Holthaus on this blog (check out her work...you won't be sorry!).
Last but not least, I wrote an article on the Depreciation Land Museum own ghost, The Deacon at my online magazine, The Parting of Veils.
Til next time. :)
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