Jefferson College hosting Ladies Academy

Published 9:05 am Sunday, March 25, 2007

On Saturday, Historic Jefferson College in Washington will be hosting its annual Ladies Academy.

This is a seminar for ladies who do a civilian impression at Civil War events and reenactments.

These lady reenactors or, as they prefer to be called “Living Historians,” strive to interpret the woman’s role during the Civil War. These ladies do this by dressing in period clothing and using the trappings of the period to convey feeling of what it was like for most ladies during the War Between the States.

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All the participants at this seminar will be clothed in the proper ladies’ Civil War attire. This seminar will help them hone their skills and add new ones for their impressions.

Classes this year will begin at 9 a.m. and conclude around 4 p.m.

Classes slated to be taught are a class on bonnet embellishment, a sewing class on entailing fine stitching and sewing techniques, fabric selection, and embellishment, and a hand sewing class on finishing a handkerchief, including tatting, edge-crochet, ribbon-lace embroidery and monogramming.

At the completion of the classes the ladies will have a Victorian high tea and fashion show.

This will be time of remembrance of the ladies of the past and sharing a tea as it was experienced during the Civil War.

Jefferson College has through most of its history been identified as an all male institution. This is especially true for the last sixty years when it operated as a military preparatory school known as Jefferson Military College. It may then seem strange that Jefferson College is hosting a ladies school of instruction.

However, many do not realize that when the classes began in 1811 it started as co-educational school and only later evolved into an all male institution.

Contributing to Jefferson College’s evolution into male institution was the founding of Elizabeth Female Academy in 1818, which was also located in Washington. Elizabeth Greenfield Roach donated the lands for the school and it was named in her honor.

With the support of the Methodist Church it became one the earliest educational institutions established for the education of women in the South.

As a school for ladies its curriculum was more conducive to what was considered vital for the education of a young lady. Jefferson College soon lost its female students and thereafter became a predominately male school for the rest of its history.

Elizabeth Female Academy operated for twenty-five years but was forced to close because of lack students in 1844.

The living historians who are participating at this year’s seminar do so in the spirit of honoring Elizabeth Female Academy. (There were also several times during the twentieth century that female students attended Jefferson College.)

The general public is welcome to come observe the classes and the other activities on Saturday, March 31.

This is also a great opportunity for any ladies who are interested in this type of reenacting and who want to see it firsthand, and who might want to become a reenactor. Admission is free.

For more information you may contact Historic Jefferson College at 601-442-2901.

Clark Burkett is an historian at Historic Jefferson College.