Brev. Brig. Gen'l
- Feb 14, 2012
- Central Pennsylvania
Yes, it was a career. At one time dancers or any stage performer were low on societal totem poles. 20 years before the ACW women like Marie Taglioni revolutionized dance ( she was the first ballet dancer to perform on pointe, not just pose and gave us the tutu ), becoming a celebrity and darling of society.
I said ' mule ' because the term for a mule's daddy is frowned on.
This is by no means meant to be a comprehensive list. History can be a matter of the best story wins, The End. One of those stories involves a, girl meets boy b. girl marries boy c. girl raises babies while boy hacks out a living for all of them. It's an ok story frequently enacted before we social pressured our way into raising babies and having careers. Through financial need or choice we rarely have the option to ' stay home ' but that's another story.
A lot more women of the era chose to get out there than we seem aware of. Social status notwithstanding there were more options for girls asking themselves " What do I want to be when I grow up? " than we think. I'm not saying it was easy- the fact that my grandmother, for Heaven's sake, was among the first generation to vote means it took this country a shamefully long time to recognize we were already out there.
Poked around at what we got up to by way of careers. Some required education, some training and little education. Like I said, it's sure not a comprehensive list. It's 1 through 10 randomly with no emphasis on level of importance.
1. Career path dancer, singer, actress- Case in pointe ( sorry ) Marie Taglioni. Marie was the first use pointe work through performances. Her tutu? Created to expose some astonishing footwork. She was one of three wildly successful dancers dubbed The Three Graces " along with Fanny Elssler and Fanny Cerrito .
Fanny Cerrito couldn't actually fly- women astronauts came later. We thought they could, it was enough.
2. Business woman- Ellen Louise Curtis Demorest is a terrific example. By the time she met and married William Jennings Demorest she'd created the idea of mass-producing the dress patterns we still use today. Talk about a match made in Heaven. William owned and operated Madame Demorest's Emporium of Fashion on Broadway, NYC. Poof. Nell became Mme Demorest and a business empire was born.
Just one floor inside Mme Demorest's.
3. Dress designer, dressmaker- Elizabeth Keckley, our best known name of the era is the best example IMO. She used her enormous gifts to purchase first her freedom then that of her family. Because she's famously known as Mary Lincoln's designer and friend we miss her story almost entirely. Keckley was rock star famous for her designs.
Doesn't she look like royalty? She was. American royalty.
4. Teacher, freeman’s school, public school normal school, colleges, ' seminaries '. Our best loved teacher of the ACW, Charlotte Forten wasn't alone. There were 74 freeman's schools alone to which teachers flocked. Carrie Sheads of Gettysburg is regarded a heroine for her part played in July, 1863 but her role as educator gets missed. Women's colleges had been around for decades by the ACW, women teachers included and the new public school system educated children of the working poor.
5. Doctor, Harriet Austin, the Blackwell sisters, Hannah Longshore and Ann Preston were all names the next generation venerated. They were only a handful of women who insisted on admittance to the traditionally male role of medical doctor. At first graduation ( 1851 ) from Boston Women's Medical College Hannah's brother-in-law Joseph stated " this day forms an eventful epoch in the history of your lives, in the history of woman, in the history of the race. "
Boston's new medical college for women opened just two years before Philadelphia's. We were off and running.
Just the first five, next five tomorrow.