Saturday, June 25, 2016

Society Saturday - Southern Dames in Alabama

The Annual Assembly of the National Society Southern Dames of America was held in Birmingham, Alabama.

The meeting started with a "Fun Day" on Thursday.  Over 50 ladies drove to the Arlington House for lunch and a tour.  Our luncheon speaker was "Lou Wooster", a famous madam from Birmingham.  She told us how she moved from Montgomery to the brand new town of Birmingham in 1871 to establish a business.  She was very successful until a cholera epidemic impacted her business.  She and her "girls" volunteered to help nurse (and sometimes bury) the cholera victims.  This earned her a congressional commendation for her service.

We then toured Arlington House - the only antebellum home still standing in Birmingham.  It was built in the 1840's.  Union General Wilson took over the first floor of the home near the end of the Civil War.  The house was later used as a boarding house.  It has been restored as a museum since the 1950's.

The next day, we learned a history of Civilization as told by dolls.  This was an interesting program given by Annette Smith, an avid doll collector. She brought representative antique dolls from her collection and told how the type of doll reflected the industrial and political happenings of the time.  

Then there was a memorial service and a board meeting, with the business session the next day.

On Saturday, we had the Eye Program luncheon.  One of the main purposes of this organization is support of eye research and eye assistance programs.  The speaker at this luncheon was Dr. Dawn DeCarlo, an optometrist who specializes in rehabilitation for patients with low vision.  She told of some of the things that can be done by adding magnification and manipulating contrast to help people see.  Her research focuses on children who are visually impaired.  

That evening we had a formal banquet followed by Awards.  We were entertained by some of the ladies from North Carolina who gave a program about "One Eyed Jacks and Jills" - they told of several famous people who had only one eye - from Sandy Duncan to Sammy Davis Jr to Teddy Roosevelt.  Awards ranged from membership to outstanding programs to Creative Arts. 

The other main purpose of this organization is support of the Creative Arts.  During the weekend, there were several items on display that had been made by the members.  Awards were given for the best in each category.

The evening concluded with installation of new officers for the 2016-2018 term.  All in all, it was an enjoyable weekend and I look forward to returning next year.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Society Saturday - Fashions of the Pilgrims

At our recent meeting of the Sons and Daughters of the Pilgrims, we learned about the various fashions that our ancestors might have worn.  A common belief is that the Pilgrims and Puritans wore black or gray without any adornments.  Speaker B.A. Church explained that this wasn't necessarily the case.

She gave us the historical background of the clothing worn during the early 1600's.  Prior to 1649, Charles I was on the throne.  His followers were known as Cavaliers or Royalists.  Men wore collars made of handmade lace and doublets (jackets) with slashes on the sleeves to show off the undersleeves.  There was a lot of embroidery on their clothing, often with silk or silver-gilt thread.  They would wear the long curled wigs and a big hat with ostrich feathers.

Women would wear poofy sleeves and real pearl necklaces.  Their dress bodices were long-waisted to enhance their tiny waists (often 15" due to corsets).  They wore a farthingale of wicker or whalebone to widen their skirts.

Puritan dress vs Royalist dress
After Oliver Cromwell overthrew the throne, he promoted a much more sedate version of dress.  This is closer to what we think of the Puritans wearing.  They discouraged Frippery on the clothing.  There was no embroidery or other embelishment, collars were made of plain linen.  It was decreed that colors should be subdued.  There was no jewelry, or buckles.  In fact, one could be fined for wearing ribbon or lace, or even dressing above one's station in life.

In 1660, Charles II regained the throne and fancier fashion returned to England.  Clothing in the colonies remained more subdued, however, because fancier cloths had to be imported, and people were occupied with making a life in the harsh colonies leaving little time for embellishing clothing.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Society Saturday - Southern Dames of Illinois

There is a brand new lineage society in Illinois - the Illinois State Society of Southern Dames of America.  They held their inaugural meeting on May 5, 2016.

The Southern Dames of America is a lineage organization that celebrates southern heritage and raises money for services for people with blindness and other eyesight disabilities.  Illinois is now their newest state society.

In the five months since invitations were sent to join, the Illinois Society has grown to include 51 charter members.  Thirty ladies met in Bloomington to learn about the society and the eye program.

New members were welcomed, given a gift along with their certificates, and signed the charter form.

Officers were installed, and everyone looks forward to a long association with this new (to us) Society. 

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Society Saturday- The Witch of Pungo

The annual meeting of the National Society Sons and Daughters of Antebellum Plants was held jointly with the Sons and Daughters of Colonial and Antebellum Bench and Bar.  

Our Speaker this year was Hon. Richard Bender Abell, former Assistant Attorney General.  He spoke about the trial of Grace Sherwood, also known as the Witch of Pungo.  During his talk, he compared the attitudes of the Virginia colonists with thos of the Massachusetts colonists.  For example, there were 20 executions during the Salem witch panic of 1692 compared with a total of 20 accusations in Virginia between 1607-1730.  The harshest punishment meted out in Virginia was a lashing.  Part of this was because in Virginia, the accuser bore the burden of proof.  If the accused witch was convicted, they could then sue their accuser of slander (this also happened in Massachusetts, but much less frequently).

Grace White Sherwood was known as a midwife and herbalist.  In fact, she was known as the person who introduced the herb rosemary to the colony of Virginia.   
Her travails first began in 1697, when she was accused of casting spells on a neighbor's bull.  She brought a defamation suit and won.
The following year,  another neighbor accused her of enchanting his hogs.  She lost the defamation suit against him.
She continued to function as a member of the community until 1706 when her neighbors the Hills accused her of witchcraft through causing a miscarriage of Elizabeth Hill.  This accusation was taken more seriously and a trial ensued.  First, she was examined for "witch's marks" which were apparently found.  Next, she underwent a trial by ducking.  The magistrate and sheriff we easy to pull her back up by a rope but she popped up anyway.  Despite the outcome of these two tests which "proved" she was a witch, no further punishment ensued.  She remained on her farm in Virginia until her death in 1740.
She was pardoned by the Virginia legislature on July 10, 2006, exactly 300 years after her trial by ducking.