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Posts Tagged ‘women’s history’

Pennsylvania Women Plaque

This is something a little different – this plaque is inside the Pennsylvania state monument at Gettysburg. I am not aware that there is anything else like this on the battlefield proper (but I’ve been wrong before). What it made me think about was that here is a plaque with no names, just dedicated to the loyal women of the commonwealth, and yet it probably contains more information than most of their tombstones did.

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Sara Hinson

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I tried very hard to focus my posts this month on gravestones for women in honor of Women’s History Month, and I was kind of disappointed to discover how hard it was. Women’s tombstones seem less likely to have epitaphs or other biographical information beyond whose wife or mother the deceased was.

Tonight I was at a restaurant and the hostess’ nametag said her name was “Keziah.” It’s a name I had never before seen given to a currently living person, but it was a little awkward to explain that I run a cemetery blog, and so she might have thought I was a bit strange. She did tell me that it is from the Biblical Book of Job.

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When I was in graduate school for history, my advisor told a story to several women’s history classes about when she first expressed an interest in women’s history. One of her professors curtly informed her that women’s history was too hard to study because women changed their names at marriage and so couldn’t be tracked through historical records the same way men could. Decades later, with women’s history now firmly established as a legitimate field of study, the claim that many women are lost to history merely through the act of changing their surname is laughable, but I think of it every time I walk through a cemetery and see stones like these, where a woman is listed with at least two surnames she used during her life.

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Lottie Crane Smith

Eleanor Quirk

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When doing research on Sophronia Bulfinch Pike, I found, among other items, a post with her “most famous recipe,” Western Fudge Cake. Pike was a member of the Home Economics Association, but I couldn’t find much else about her other than what is inscribed on her tombstone. It was a little disappointing, because a Google search turns up all sorts of tantalizing hits, but when you click into the document and try to find her name, you can’t. She must have been an interesting woman. From what I can read in those snippets, she was one of those women of the 19th and early 20th centuries who went to college and then had a career rather than marrying.  One of the summaries indicated she had taught at Western College for Women, her alma mater, for almost 50 years.

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Whenever I stroll through a cemetery that has tombstones from the 19th century, I think of an story one of my women’s history professors in graduate school told me.

Ann Randolph Titler

As my professor told it, when she became interested in women’s history while in college, one of her history professors tried to discourage her. After various arguments as to why women did not constitute a worthy area of historical interest, he concluded with a declaration about how women’s history couldn’t be done anyway because women change their names when they marry and there is no way to trace them. Now there are plenty of ways in which I could dispute that old curmudgeon’s theories about women’s history and the possibility of studying women, but the I mostly just chuckle at the ludicrous idea that women’s history will run aground because women change their names at marriage. (We’ll leave aside that name-changing is culture-specific rather than universal.) After all, it’s not like there are government documents or possibly even tombstones where women’s names before and after marriage might be recorded, right?*

Murray (3)

*Heavy sarcasm alert.

Burkholder

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