March is National Women's History Month. Since 2007, I have participated in the organization's mission to "…recognize and celebrate the diverse and historic accomplishments of women by providing information and educational materials and programs."
From left to right in the picture, authors Suzanne Adair, Phyllis Harrison, and Sharon Ewell Foster at East Regional Library in Knightdale on 8 March. Our panel had a small audience that afternoon because we'd just been inflicted with the spring time change, and everyone was running an hour behind schedule. But our discussion was phenomenal. In one thread, we talked about the suppression of religion experienced by various groups throughout history. For example, export a captured Yoruban into slavery on Saint Domingue (Haiti), and force her to listen to a Catholic priest, and the result is not the obliteration of her native beliefs. Instead, those beliefs will be transformed into the powerful religion of vodou. History provides us with other examples of suppression being an ineffective tool for obliterating religion, government, sexuality, etc. Reminds me of what Master Kan said to Grasshopper in the 1970s TV show "Kung Fu:" "To suppress a truth is to give it force beyond endurance." A timely message for National Women's History Month.
I presented on the topic of women as camp followers in the Revolutionary War at the North Carolina Museum of History 11 March, the museum's "History à la Carte" program. This continues to be a topic of confusion, as most folks equate "camp follower" with "prostitute." Technically, the term "camp follower" wasn't yet used during the Revolution to describe those civilian artisans, sutlers, and retainers, male and female, who traveled with an army. But even by the time of the Civil War, when the term had entered the English language, prostitutes comprised only a tiny segment of an army's non-combatants. So the first matter I clarify for audiences is that not all women who followed an army were prostitutes. What amazes me is that these women endured great deprivation and occasionally found themselves in the middle of battles, just to stay near their loved ones. It speaks to the innate courage of women and their ability throughout time to do what needs to be done. Another timely message for the month.