Thursday, October 30, 2014

Kristen: The Snake/Serpent Motif in Civil War Jewelry

Snakes or serpents have been a popular motif for thousands of years, from the ancient Egyptians to popular culture today. In terms of the 19th century, it became a symbol of eternal love and devotion. I came across the mention of a serpent from Godey's, and my fascination has led to a research distraction...my favorite! I'm looking to add a snake to my impression with plenty of documentation. Thus began another descent into research madness...



Research Terms/Word Origins

I started by changing up my research terms. According to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary), The word "snake" derives from Middle English snaca, close to the Middle Low German snake. The use of the word dates back before the year 1000, but it did not really become popular until the 20th century. The word "serpent" comes from the Latin serpere, a much older word and a better search term when searching through 19th century documentation. The following charts are from Google Word Origin, and clearly show why I found less when looking up "snake."




Use over time for: "serpent"


Use over time for: "snake"

I also needed to know the word in other languages, as I wanted both French and German: "serpent" and "schlange." The most difficult part of this entire process was figuring out the right terms to use for my search! At this point my background in English from the University of Michigan started to kick in, and I spent nearly an hour playing on the OED. I took several linguistics classes in Spanish and English while in school; one in particular was taught by William Kretzschmar, a famous linguist and tough grader! I skated by with a B+ (one of the highest grades in the class) but that attention to word detail definitely worked in my favor...

Symbolism
The serpent motif became quite popular during 19th century, and it was used earlier during the Georgian period for jewelry and mourning purposes. Then came that great trendsetter; Queen Victoria rocked the serpent in the form of an engagement ring from her beloved Prince Albert in 1840. Suddenly, the slithering serpent became a symbol of a sacred love, a fashion statement for the ages. If Queen Vicki does it, it has to be cool!   

The serpent continued in its popularity, according to Jeanenne Bell author of Collecting Victorian Jewelry: Identification and Price Guide (2004): "The snake motif was used throughout the Victorian period. On a stroll through London, ladies could be seen wearing serpent rings, serpents entwined around their arms, and serpents coiled on their brooches" (23). While my impression cannot totally mimic an English lady, I doubt American women would have ignored such a trend. In fact, I've not seen a single serpent anywhere during my reenacting career, a void I am glad to fill!

After Prince Albert's death the serpent remained, with adaptations for more fashionable materials, such as wood or onyx. Remember that mourning style became de rigour in the 1860's, so black became vogue. Hairwork easily translated into the serpent shape as well, adding another dimension to its popularity. The material depended on the wealth of its owner; eyes or skin of rubies, diamonds, and emeralds could be replaced by a simple glass bead.

This was perhaps the easiest part of the research process. It's simple to google search "victorian serpent jewelry" to find a jeweler's assessment of the trend. I know they were popular, but other documentation is necessary before I add it to my impression. If you are interested in knowing more about the representation of the serpent, I found an excellent blog post here.

Photographic Documentation
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a snake in a 19th century photograph? It is nearly impossible to do this, so any evidence I find is certainly the mark of my good eye. My eyeballs were practically bleeding while staring closely at my computer screen. After sifting through dozens of snake charmers and circus performers, I did find a few photographs, mostly later in the century. Please enjoy the sweet fruit of my labor.
Library of Congress, Belt Buckle


I know that I am missing photographic evidence, though as with the arrows it may take time. Snakes could be so small and dainty, a fine little detail that the camera would not capture. Guessing the popularity and widespread nature of the snake motif is difficult to imagine with this evidence. Yet the continuity of its presence in jewelry and accessories remains obvious, as these photographs show several decades of the 19th century. Luckily, I have other forms of documentation!

Textual Documentation
Throughout my search, the word "snake" or "serpent" appeared in so many different contexts. In many stories, the snake appeared often as a slithering evil creature, wreaking some sort of biblical havoc. The fashion column shows a different side of the animal, as it is depicted as a beautiful accessory, practically dripping off the wrists of ladies. Are these creepy or stylish? 
Serpent Bracelet, Godeys Lady's Book, December 1855
Materials .— For the body five skeins of fine gold twist, and one skein of dark green cord; or one skein of shaded violet and green silk, and a skein of coarse gold twist, which is used instead of the cord. If worked in imitation of hair, one skein of coarse netting silk, one skein of brown union cord. For the head, one skein of fine gold twist silk, same as the body; and for the eyes four steel beads, No. 6, and two large black ones; and one skein of German wool to stuff the body. Needle, No. 17, bell gauge. WITH the gold twist work twenty chain, and make it round, keeping the wrong side of the stitches outside; take the green cord, and with the gold work twenty-two stitches plain, working the cord under the stitches, still keeping the work on the wrong side; then work in spiral crochet; thus, it will be perceived on examining the wrong side of the plain stitches, that two threads of the gold lie perpendicularly across the cord of the lower part of the stitch; insert the needle in the left hand thread of the two perpendicular threads, and work a plain stitch in it. Repeat this stitch for ninety-six rounds, working the cord under the stitches, which should be worked rather loose1y. Then decrease one, by taking two stitches together, thirty-seven plain, decrease one, thirty-five plain, decrease one, thirty-three plain, decrease one. Repeat twelve times more, working two stitches less between the decrease each time; fasten off. Double the skein of wool, and with a large rug-needle draw it through the body to the end.
Fashions, Arthur's Lady's Home Magazine, 1856
Novelties for February, Godey's Lady's Book, February 1857
Fig. 1 The serpent brooch is of wrought gold, the coils being entwined around a cross band, or bar, handsomely enamelled. In this design, which gives the costliest form, a pendant is suspended from the mouth of the serpent . This may be dispensed with if desired, or, if added, may be ordered of any precious stone, carbuncles, pearls, &c. The one we give is of diamonds, and has of course a superb effect in evening-dress.
A Marriage in the Rothschild Family, Godey's Lady's Book, 1857
To this princely gift succeeded a long row of candlesticks, gold and silver filagree, and enamel ivory work-boxes, lace, fans, jewelled buttons, prayer-books bound in gold, and jewelled escritoires of buhl and marqueterie, more breakfast services, and a lace parasol. The latter was in a kind of jewel-case; the handle was covered with serpents of rubies and diamonds, and the tip of each rib was formed of an oval-shaped emerald and large pearl.
Der Bazar, November 1861
La Mode Illustree, December 1861
The What-not or Ladies' handy-book, 1861
"A serpent of fine scaly gold, the neck and back striped and variegated with minute gems, was wreathed about the mass of braids on one side of her head, and formed a knot of slender coils where it clasped the coronet...A serpent, similar to the one on her head, but glowing with still more costly jewels, coiled around the graceful swell of her right arm, a little below the elbow, but its brilliancy was concealed by the drapery of the sleeve..."

"Her crimson robe floated out on the wind, and the jewelled serpent about her brow gleamed like a living thing in the red light which lay full upon her." 

"The words were yet on her lips when a bullet whistled from the shore, and cut away the ruby crest of the serpent which lay upon her temple."
Les Modes Parisiennes, 1862
"L'autre est une chatelaine pour relever la robe de mauvais temps; elle deviendra indispensable pour retenir les habits de chavel, car la longueur des jupes d'amazone les rend tresincommodes des qu'on met pied a terre. Due reste, cette chatelaine est de forme tres-elegante, elle se prend dans la ceinture et une petite chaine soutient une espece de petit bracelet qui s'ouvre pour prendre le plis de la jupe, puis vous relevez ou abaissez vette chaine en passant un petit crochet dans un de ses anneaux. Ce bracelet en argent figure une branche d'arbre sur laquelle s'enroule un serpent en or."

"The other is a chatelaine to meet the dress of bad weather; it becomes essential to retain clothes Chavel, because the length of skirts amazon makes tresincommodes of you put foot on land. Moreover, this chatelaine is very elegant-form it takes in the waist and a small chain supports a kind of small bracelet that opens to make the folds of the skirt, then you raise or lower vette chain through a small hook in one of his rings. This silver bracelet branch of a tree on which a snake wrapped in gold." -Google translate
Arthur's Lady's Home Magazine, 1863
Novelties for April, Godey's Lady's Book, April 1864
Fig. 1 A headdress of lilac velvet petunias, with groups of palm leaves; a double chain of gutta percha is carried round the head; in front, among the palm leaves, is an enamelled blue and green golden serpent.

This evidence is perhaps the most compelling. American, English, French, and German magazines all mention the snake as an adornment. Here I will lay my shortcomings at the reader; translating German is a terrifically messy mess when one only reads Spanish/English/slight French, so I may be missing more documentation. Actually seeing the repeated snake from Der Bazar to La Mode Illustree the next month reminded me that the serpent could cross cultural boundaries. Oh you sly little thing you! I will add more to this section later if necessary, though I feel I've collected enough evidence to prove that the snake motif was alive during the Civil War period.

Surviving Originals
Dating jewelry can be especially difficult, since not every piece is stamped. Women could also pass down items through generations. Considering the continuity of the motif, it is quite possible that a young lady from 1860 might inherit a jeweled bracelet or brooch from her mother or grandmother. Just as I will lovingly wear my own grandmother's wedding ring, these ladies treasured family heirlooms. 

Gold, or silver, jet, plain or extravagant, the original jewelry illustrates the serpent trend with stylish fashion. They are found on everything, from necklaces, bracelets, rings, brooches, and belts. I saw pearls, turquoise, agate, ruby, garnet, diamond, and even emeralds. Viewing the surviving originals proves the popularity of the trend, as well as reinforces the textual documentation.

In Conclusion...
At this point I'm really excited to see a few slithering friends riding along with my less slithering friends at upcoming events. I do have a few concerns, as this particular motif may not be appropriate for every impression. Before adding a snake accessory, think about the following questions:

How would the snake function within your impression?
Why would your person have one?
When would it be worn?
How will you explain its importance?

I would love to see more variety at events, as such research can only improve our experience of the 19th century. However, the symbol of the snake may be too much for a few of my readers, as I've had more than one person say "ewww" when looking at my post. If you do decide to sink your fangs into this motif, realize that documentation supports your choice in the appropriate context. By the way, I totally did not intend this publish this just before Halloween? Or did I?
Where's your documentation?!!!

Seriously though, everyone have a safe and festive Halloween!
~Kristen

Monday, October 27, 2014

Becky: Kentucky

This week, my husband-to-be, baby, and I went to Kentucky! It took 5-6 hours to get there with baby. Cynthia was happy most of the way there and back, but there were sometimes that she would rather be playing than be in a car seat.

It was a business trip really. The GIE was an educational expo for me. I learned a lot about my husbands company. But that's some boring info I don't want to talk about.

I want to tell you about the Kentucky Derby and the jack-o'-lantern extravaganza we saw!!

The coolest thing I have ever seen was the jack-o'-lantern "extravaganza".

There were thousands of carved pumpkins! While we walked through the timeline of history, we saw the Mona Lisa and steam boat willie. Cynthia showed her enthusiasm by screeching and jumping in my arms. I know she enjoyed it as much as we did.

Then we saw the Churchill Downs Kentucky Derby. It was an emotional place for me. Loving horses all my life, it was a bucket list destination! I would highly recommend visiting this place if you were in Louisville.

We took a side trip to Indiana to the Ohio river and saw Lewis and Clarke exposition statue and some fossils. And even passed thomas Edison's home 3 times. Seriously, passed it, it was so small, next to a wearhouse lot.

Overall it was a fantastic trip and I hope to visit there again.

What about you? Have you ever been to Louisville? What was your favorite place? Is there an attraction I should see the next time we visit? I'd love to hear your suggestions!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Becky: Outlander

I read Outlander in high school. I was hooked right from the start and has been forevermore my utmost favorite book series of all time. I even got most of Diana Gabildon's books signed by her when she came to Michigan.

Even though the book was first published in the 90's, Outlander has become a television sensation! This fall, Starz had played 8 episodes mirroring the book so close I knew what quote was next! The next "season" will be playing in April and I just can't get enough of it.

Why is this series so addicting? Besides the romance and nudity, which is a revolution in its own, is the detail to historical accuracy! I learned so much from the series, medically, historically, even about politics I never knew. 

The television series also does a fine job with the location and costuming. Even American Dutchess expresses her graduated towards the accuracy in Outlander: "I'm going to come right out and say that I personally thought the dress was outstanding, and was surprisingly accurate..." She goes on explaining the references and detail the producers took note.

So I highly suggest watching Outlander if you have Starz!

What about you? Is this your first time hearing about Outlander? Or are you a true die heart fan of 20 years? I'd love to know in the "du-baly-do" comment box below!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Kristen: 19th Century Breastfeeding Practices

This might seem an odd topic for a woman who has yet to take the plunge into motherhood. We have a few years before a mini-me streaks around the campsites, wreaking having on the 19th century. While I do not yet have children, it does seem that nearly everyone in the hobby has a little one, here or in the works ("tick tock" said my biological clock). Breastfeeding is a controversial subject in today's world, so I wanted to take a deeper look at its 19th century implications as it will have an effect on the children I care about so dearly!
Just how do you feed this thing anyway?

I have several reasons to write this post. I have an adorable little goddaughter who grows stronger every day with the art of nursing. My thoughts wander to my future children as well, as I would like to support my decisions with documentation. Finally, I want to start the conversation within the Civil War reenacting community to see if a sort of consensus can be made. If not, then I need to share breastfeeding laws that have recently come to pass in many of the states that may influence our own policies. I don't think reenactors want to gain negative attention for breaking the law!

Learning how to research this topic was an eye-opener; Sucking, suckling, breast feeding, nursing, so many names for one action. My vocabulary is expanding with every search! I've run into this issue with other topics of research as well. Just because we call it "nursing" or "breast feeding" today, does not meaning that "sucking" was not a period appropriate term. Once I adjusted my 19th century glasses, evidence came in focus.
And goodness do I look stunning!

I believe it is important to attack this evidence in a three-prong approach; visual, textual, and surviving originals all contribute to a better understanding of the actual practice of breastfeeding. 


Visual Documentation
I was shocked to find large amounts of photographic evidence supporting breastfeeding. Other ladies have written about this topic, making this part of my research much easier. So many pictures show ladies in fine clothing feeding their little ones. I keep finding new ones too, though for the sake of length I won't include every one! All of these photos can be found here.


These photos bring up so many questions, ones that we could not answer without the ladies present. Who was taking these pictures? Were they planned? Were there other people in the room? The evidence seems to suggest that these were not "fallen" women, as they are apporpriately dressed. The amount of pictures also points to the idea that nursing during such an occasion was not uncommon.

As for the public aspect of nursing, I can conclude that at the very least it wasn't obscene to have a picture of a woman doing so. These women aren't showing off underpinnings or exposing themselves in a sexual manner; it appears here that breastfeeding is just a loving aspect of motherhood.

Textual Documentation
My research continued, this time looking for actual in-text citations of breastfeeding. I found so many manuals, recommending nursing for young mothers if at all possible. Apparently it was quite a popular trend during this part of the 19th century, as it seems to be at the advice of nearly every doctor, if a woman was physically capable. Here are a few of the snippets:

The Christian Recorder, January 25 1862
As a good mother persists in suckling her own child, even though it cause her pain for a time, so also should both father and mother persist in their attention to its spiritual life, and omit nothing calculated to cherish, elevate, and preserve it. 

Health Department, Godey's December 1860
In short, all nursing women should, above all others, live naturally, physiologically, and common sensely, disregarding alike the rebellious movings of a misguided appetite, the fanciful whims of the ignorant, the baseless traditions of grandmothers, and many of the time-honored customs of the nursery-room. If nursing women would rear healthy, sweet-tempered children, they must be healthy and sweet-tempered themselves; and to be thus, requires obedience to the laws of health, not only in eating, and drinking, and moral influences, and all things mentioned in this article onNursing Women; but also in sleeping, in cleanliness, in temperature, in the regulation of the excretions, and in everything else that is pure, healthful, and of “good report.” 

Infant Feeding and Its Influence on Life: Or the Causes and Prevention of Infant Mortality
Charles Henry Felix RouthJanuary 1, 1879

The evidence seems to suggest that breastfeeding was a cultural norm for the mid-19th century lady. It had not always been this way, as women had to take care against "the baseless traditions of grandmothers." I must note that a "good mother" nurses her children, and she must live "common sensely" in order to raise "sweet-tempered children." Similar to today, the bond between mother and child is cemented by the act of nursing.

Yet these bits of advice don't allude to the public/private nature of breastfeeding. Here again I had to sift through evidence, at first looking at how the medical advice books offer suggestions for a routine. Understanding the context of motherhood just might help me better comprehend where it was okay to display it.
Health Department, Godey's April 1862
Children, therefore, should be early trained to regular habits; to regularity not only in hours of sleeping, but in eating, and everything else that can be made to conform to rule.

Infant Treatment, Godey's January 1865
EXERCISE.— By slow degrees the infant should be accustomed to exercise, both within doors and in the open air; but he should never be moved about after sucking or feeding; it will be apt to sicken him. Exercise should be given by carrying him about and gently dandling him in his mother or nurse's arms; but dancing him up and down on the knee is very fatiguing for a young child.

Hints to Mothers for the Management of Health During the Period of Pregnancy and in the Lying-in Room, Thomas Bull 1869


I can conclude that a heathy infant would be exposed to the outdoors at a relatively young age, within the time that "sucking or feeding" still constituted a large part of the child's diet. Also, the evidence points to the lady resuming her "accustomed duties," as well as going "out of doors without risk." This evidence suggests that nursing women did leave the home for periods of time, though no advice is given as to the nature of breastfeeding out of the home. What if she brought along her child and needed to nurse? I saw no documentation of nursing covers or advice to return home to feed.

My hunt continued, this time with more of a focus on nursing as a public act. I found numerous examples of ladies at home feeding in front of family or friends. Pictures/paintings depict motherhood as both an intensely personal but encouragingly public event. If the act was completely obscene, why would it be mentioned so often in the popular media?
1850 "The Gypsy Mother" engraved by E.Portbury
1863 "First Born" Gustave Leonard de Jonghe
The Handcart Company, CCA Christensen1856-60
Harvest, Leon Augustin Lhermitte, 1874
The Morning Call, Stereoview 1860

In every one of these pictures a woman nurses publicly, whether in the home or outdoors. The women vary in their station of life, from workers in the field to the lady accepting a call with the newborn on her breast. Based on these images, the nursing did not excite much attention; any direction toward the mother and her child seems to be affectionate, rather than critical. I pressed on my research...

Great Snowstorm on the Prairies, Frank Leslie's Weekly, January 30 1864
THE great snowstorm which came with the New Year raged with fearful severity on the Western prairies. The railroads were blocked up, and on the Michigan Central railroad the suffering of a train was great. As the train from Detroit on New Year's Eve approached New Buffalo, they found a freight train blocked up with snow, unable to get forward or back...Meanwhile the passengers waited and shivered...And so the hours passed. The cold grew colder, the wind howled and shrieked like mad, the snow filled the air and the frost drove in through every crevice, piercing to the quick women and children, like sharp needles. Those who had lunch baskets that were not empty carefully distributed of their stores among the little ones, and the warmest hooks were given to nursing mothers and their infants . The men found pastime in alternating between the fence and the baggage car, and between the latter and the several stoves.

The Contraband Camp, The Weekly Vincennes Western Sun, June 6 1863
In the suburbs of the city is a spectacle which t would be glad for every American to witness and consider. There are eight or ten acres of ground covered with barracks, which are occupied by between one and two thousand contrabands or fugitive slaves, embracing in their number all conceivable ages and conditions of both sexes. There are sucking infants , young girls and women decrepit women boys and men of all ages, some of whom are as helpless us infants at the mother's breast. The most of them, however, are able-bodied men and women. Here these creatures are kept in idleness, the boys playing marbles, the women lying About on heaps of straw, nursing their babes and eating the bread of filth and idleness.
Brutal and negligent? 19th century factory mothers and child care, Melanie Reynolds, 2011
Mothers at the Tean Hall Mill in Stoke-on-Trent were part of a particularly novel solution to this 
problem. As Jill Dunicliff has remarked, for 'the factory women [who] worked in the part of the mill 
near High Street ... there was a hole not much bigger than the span of a man's fingers, from thumb to 
little finger, in the wall, covered by a vertical sliding shutter and through this a nursing mother could 
feed her baby. The baby would be brought by its baby minder, usually by an aunt or an older sister, 
the foreman would fasten up the shutter on its cord, and with the baby being held to the outside of 
the hole, the feeding could be managed' (Collingridge, 2008).

The What-not; or Ladies' handy-book, 1861
Context: Male family friend enters room

The act of nursing a child does not seem to incite a riotous reactions in the authors of the many texts I examined. Newspapers, medical guides, etiquette manuals, and even Godey's Lady's Book mentions breastfeeding, with no specific advice as to the nature of the event. I will conclude thus far that, based on the evidence, public nursing greatly depended on the lady, her child, and their surroundings.

Surviving Originals
Recently there has been much discussion of maternity within the reenactor community, specifically the clothing worn during/after pregnancy. I had not even considered textiles as an element of my research until Elizabeth Stewart Clark pointed out the differences between 1840-50 dress styles and the 1860 button front. These seem to suggest that stylish dresses were adapted for maternity wear, especially the ever-popular wrapper. 

Many women would have spent a large part of their lives pregnant or nursing infants. If a woman has six children one right after another...that's four years just enduring pregnancy, not even thinking about time spent nursing. Did she spend all of those four years in her home? I highly doubt that conclusion, and as her breast milk was considered a good food source, the little one would have accompanied her on at least occasions. Also, these wrappers are just so pretty. How would she approach feeding time while not at home? Or at home accepting visitors?

In Conclusion...
 Unfortunately we cannot time travel in order to kidnap a 19th century mother and ask her about the proper etiquette of breastfeeding. The most we can do is gather sources to reach an understanding that properly reflects the 19th century to ourselves and the public. As much as many people would like to leave it out, breastfeeding was an important aspect of motherhood, the most sacred of jobs a woman could have in that time.
Pictured: Not a sacred job of womanhood
Photo by Ken Giorlando

In my research I also noted the mention of wet nurses. I did not include this in the post (another one?), though the debate about just whose milk a child should ingest came up many times. Queen Victoria, that great mother of England, found breastfeeding abhorrent and passed the job off to wet nurses for each of her children. She wasn't found of the infant part of childhood, noting that: "Abstractedly, I have no tender for them till they have become a little human; an ugly baby is a very nasty object – and the prettiest is frightful when undressed. Until about 4 months; in short as long as they have their big body and little limbs and that terrible froglike action." Her status as royalty certainly influenced her opinion.

Reenactment Implications
As for the public nature of breastfeeding at Civil War reenactments, I cannot give a specific answer for individuals. Based on my research, a nursing mother in the camp would not be remiss, especially if she sat under a tent in her "parlor." While I would not suggest that breastfeeding ladies participate in battle, I don't think it's necessarily accurate to hide them in tents. Would that not be an excellent educational moment for spectators? 

This is a time when our modern sensibilities take over, possibly blinding us from accuracy. I am not personally offended by a lady feeding her child at any time, nor would I ask her to remove herself from my company. I see so many issues with keeping these women from the open air; heat in a tent could cause issues, many event bathrooms/portables are not sanitary, and even the notorious cover-up might be harmful on a hot day. It is not my place to tell a woman who participated in the miracle of birth that she must hide her child's nourishment. Please note that these are my personal opinions and safety concerns, and I understand that yours may differ. 

However, even if you are offended by the act of public breastfeeding, you may not have the right to ask a women to cover up or leave. Many states have recently passed laws concerning public nursing, and I especially like Michigan's new law (I have cut out the wordy parts, but you can find it here):

Act No. 197
Public Acts of 2014
Approved by the Governor
June 24, 2014
AN ACT to prohibit discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of the right to breastfeed; to provide for enforcement of the right to breastfeed; and to provide remedies.
The People of the State of Michigan enact:
Sec. 1. (1) This act shall be known and may be cited as the “breastfeeding antidiscrimination act”.
Sec. 2. Except where expressly permitted by state or federal statute or a regulation promulgated thereunder, a person with control over a public accommodation or public service shall not do any of the following:
(a) Deny the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or public service to a woman because she is breastfeeding a child.
(b) Print, circulate, post, mail, or otherwise cause to be published a statement, advertisement, notice, or sign that indicates any of the following:
(i) That the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or public service will be refused, withheld from, or denied a woman because she is breastfeeding a child.
(ii) That a woman’s patronage of or presence at a place of public accommodation is objectionable, unwelcome, unacceptable, or undesirable because she is breastfeeding a child.
Sec. 3. (1) A person alleging a violation of this act may bring a civil action in a court of appropriate jurisdiction for appropriate injunctive relief, actual damages or presumed damages of $200.00, or both injunctive relief and actual or presumed damages.
(2) In addition to the relief under subsection (1), a court rendering a judgment in an action brought under this act may award all or a portion of the costs of litigation, including reasonable attorney fees and witness fees, to the complainant in the action if the court determines that the award is appropriate.

As nearly every Civil War reenactment takes place at a "public accommodation," women are legally allowed to nurse at events without being asked to cover up or leave. Pennsylvania has a similar law called The Freedom to Breastfeed Act, along with 38 other states. Even if my research had concluded that women never nursed publicly in the 19th century, a modern woman could legally do so at an event today without a problem. This information is all available online so you can check out your state's laws. I suggest you do so before making a decision for you or your group. Also consider that the little one could be a future reenactor, so making his/her mother feel uncomfortable may not be the best recruitment strategy.
Food is still the best recruitment strategy
Photo by Ken Giorlando

Women nursed publicly in the 19th century in a way that reflected their class and surroundings. By including this as a part of an impression, reenactors and the public alike are exposed to the loving nature of motherhood. If you are a mother and still feel the need to remove yourself, feel free. You're very busy, and it's not my decision whether or not you want to show that to the world. On the other hand, if you're looking for a place to nurse...you're always welcome under my tent fly. 

~Kristen




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