" What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up, Little Girl? " What We Told Them

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JPK Huson 1863

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dancer cool color.jpg

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 .

dance mdm cerillo.jpg

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.
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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.

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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.

teacher cool.jpg


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. "

female med college new england cool.jpg
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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.





 

Yankee Brooke

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I often think about what I might have been had I been born in that era... perhaps it would depend on who your father was. Maybe I could have been an actress or dancer, glamorous and the envy of other women. Or maybe I'd just be a farmer's daughter/wife struggling to help keep up on the farm chores and hoping we had enough food from the upcoming harvest...:frown:
 
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Mrs. V

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I often think about what I might have been had I been born in that era... perhaps it would depend on who your father was. Maybe I could have been an actress or dancer, glamorous and the envy of other women. Or maybe I'd just be a farmer's daughter/wife struggling to help keep up on the farm chores and hoping we had enough food from the upcoming harvest...:frown:
I wonder as well. But I am sure that somewhere in there I’d still be singing!
 

JPK Huson 1863

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I wonder as well. But I am sure that somewhere in there I’d still be singing!

Ah. IMO we appreciated singing much more 150 years ago. It's so odd. I realize radio then TV changed how many flocked to theaters and concerts but it also narrowed the field as to who would be ' famous ', you know? Only so many singers could be aired. Sometimes I'll hear a soloist in the church choir or one of these amazing kids singing in a school musical and get blown away. For someone who only sings in the car ( alone ) so no one gets shattered by the sound, the real stuff in Heaven.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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6. Balloonist. There were several famous female balloonists. An aereolist ( sp? sorry- I'll find it! ) was apparently different- women who flung themselves through the air from trapezes. Balloonists weren't in it for the spectacle although balloon ascensions were a huge, big deal. It was the cutting edge of flight.

balloon lady flag.jpg


7. Author. Don't get me started ( but I have to for the sake of the thread ). Here on CWT we're smitten by Louisa May Alcott and lucky she survived the typhoid caught nursing wounded in D.C. . We wouldn't have " Little Women ". The list of women writers is lengthy. It was both acceptable and ' doable ' turning your talents loose on paper- we were at one time a nation of readers hungry for books.

When Sarah Jane Hale was widowed with 5 small children to support, she got out her quill. Most famous as Godey's editor, she'd begun building her reputation as a writer. We're still reading Jane Austin, the Bronte sisters, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Baroness Orczy and a dozen other authors of the era and pre-war.

Image is slightly post war, one edition of " Little Women ".
author cool little women.JPG


8. Artist. This is personal. You don't have to be famous to be one or earn some coin. I know Amish women whose names will never be known who sell wonderful landscapes painted on furniture made by other Amish craftsmen. Etsy opened up a whole, new venue to explore- creativity flattens me and it's on display there daily.

We had numerous ' famous ' women whose work was in demand 150 years ago. Mary Cassat's work remains popular into 2019- there were others too. This is Julia Hart Beers. Quite a few illustrators were women- there's some awesome work in era books by women who did it for a living.
artist cool julia hart beers.jpg


9. Nurse! Of course ' nurse ' since we history geeks know so many names. BUT. It wasn't a woman's field until the ACW. We'd flipped- midwives had been nurse and doctor for centuries. Midwives were slowlyyyy shoved aside and dismissed as antiquated quacks. Then war intruded. Each regiment was assigned a nurse- all men. Since these soldiers fought, too and really had no medical background women took the initiative. Through the war we hear quite a few doctors bewailing the advent of female nurses but they couldn't stem the humanitarian flow. We were back to stay. Wittenmeyer, Ridley, ( of course ) Barton, Bickerdyke, Harvey, our Sisters, Bucklin, Wheelock- took Nightingale's teachings and ran with it.

Nurses at Camp Letterman, Gettysburg, 1863
nurses cc gb cool.jpg


10. Politician. Anna Ella Carroll ( there's a thread here somewhere on ' General ' Carroll ). She was a hugely well known political writer and lobbyist who caught Lincoln's attention. Finally part of his cabinet, weirdly unknown because women couldn't be accepted. It really WAS very bizarre- she was there yet wasn't- and still isn't unless you know your history. There were others, Anna Ella rubbed elbows with yet more women politicians.

cool politician.jpg
 
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Lubliner

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Really when I stop to think on it, the women of society were always involved while at the home front in looking for opportunities to make life a bit nicer, easier, and more comely. So it suddenly occurs to me, presently, that those small, hidden pathways to enjoyment and bettering oneself were always being searched for. So when opportunity knocks, they do a pirouette to the door, fling it open and bow low.
@JPK Huson 1863, some have a blessing to see what is just beyond the realm of vision, though some consider it is what is up front that really counts. I admire those that see more than (as you do); reminding me of a story I really like (because I just now made it up); when shown a picture of a flower and asked to describe what she saw, she responded, 'A floating butterfly.' When asked how so, she replied that it had left the flower and flown away when the picture was held up to view. Nice story huh?
And Demorest, William from the old television show, My Three Sons, starring Fred MacMurray! (Where is Mama?).
Thanks, Lubliner.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Oh, I've never been a big fan of the whole ' bettering ' oneself thing. If it meant taking a good look inside head and heart and making changes that result in being a better human being, neighbor, friend or world citizen that would be one thing. It tends to refer to what other people should do, implication being no one is just fine the way they are. Most of us are just fine until someone tells us we shouldn't be.

Women didn't always have the chance to pursue careers or had no desire to be a dancer, doc, nurse. One of the most annoying episodes of a talk show I ever saw ( and made me swear off talk shows ) was when a host kinda pitted two groups of women against each other. One group were career women the other stay at home moms. They had a good old verbal punch em up, attacking each other, flinging judgements at each other- who was selfish, who could never stand for what women really want, who was letting the side down, as it were. It was a sooooo tragic. No one felt impelled to support each other's choices.

When we do we'll be able to make a difference.
 

Lubliner

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Oh, I've never been a big fan of the whole ' bettering ' oneself thing. If it meant taking a good look inside head and heart and making changes that result in being a better human being, neighbor, friend or world citizen that would be one thing. It tends to refer to what other people should do, implication being no one is just fine the way they are. Most of us are just fine until someone tells us we shouldn't be.

Women didn't always have the chance to pursue careers or had no desire to be a dancer, doc, nurse. One of the most annoying episodes of a talk show I ever saw ( and made me swear off talk shows ) was when a host kinda pitted two groups of women against each other. One group were career women the other stay at home moms. They had a good old verbal punch em up, attacking each other, flinging judgements at each other- who was selfish, who could never stand for what women really want, who was letting the side down, as it were. It was a sooooo tragic. No one felt impelled to support each other's choices.

When we do we'll be able to make a difference.
"A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest...." (proverb);
I never agreed with the theory you have to destroy the whole house to rebuild.
Nobody has that kind of time. Good job, JPK!
Lubliner.
 
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7. Author. Don't get me started ( but I have to for the sake of the thread ). Here on CWT we're smitten by Louisa May Alcott and lucky she survived the typhoid caught nursing wounded in D.C. . We wouldn't have " Little Women ". The list of women writers is lengthy. It was both acceptable and ' doable ' turning your talents loose on paper- we were at one time a nation of readers hungry for books.

When Sarah Jane Hale was widowed with 5 small children to support, she got out her quill. Most famous as Godey's editor, she'd begun building her reputation as a writer. We're still reading Jane Austin, the Bronte sisters, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Baroness Orczy and a dozen other authors of the era and pre-war.
I can't like this one enough.

I have a whole list of elite women who established themselves (or tried to establish themselves) as writers. And this list doesn't even include the non-elite women.

1.) Juliette Magill Kinzie (Yankee grandmother of Georgia-born Girl Scouts of the USA founder Juliette Gordon Low) wrote about the Kinzie family's experiences in the midwest and early Chicago. She published a narrative of the Battle of Fort Dearborn in 1844.

2.) Julia Grant was the first First Lady to write her own memoir

3.) Varina and Winnie Davis wrote books and newspaper columns.


4.) Jessie Benton Fremont (Thomas Hart Benton's daughter) wrote about her husband John Fremont's experiences in the west.

5.) Elizabeth Bacon Custer wrote about her husband, George Armstrong Custer.

6.) Mary Chesnut's revised diary became famous decades after her death. She revised it after the war, intending to see if she could earn an income from its publication.

Etc., etc, etc.

I like "Little Women." However, I was personally smitten by Laura Ingalls Wilder (the Little House books) and Lucy Maud Montgomery (author of "Anne of Green Gables.")

I have to confess that I wonder which of the famous women from the Civil War would have had their own blogs. I suspect that many of the women on my list would have tried to strike out as Instagram influencers.
 
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