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Friday, April 22, 2011

The Real Frontier Women of Fort Griffin

By Mitch Baird, Fort Griffin Site Manager

Last month, Fort Griffin State Historic Site, Frontier Women’s Living History Association, and Fort Concho presented the 7th Annual Frontier Women’s Conference. The conference was held at Fort Concho in San Angelo, which once again allowed the women to use Officer’s Quarters 1 and 8 as well as the barracks and stables for no charge. Fort Griffin assisted with purchasing materials and hat frames for the projects, and the Frontier Women organized and presented the conference and prepared the meals.

The conference featured hands-on sewing workshops presented by Robin Gillian and Jane Lenoir, both from the Texas Historical Commission. Robin led the advanced seamstress in a pattern-draping workshop that provided the attendees with a basic pattern that could be modified for most dress styles from 1850–1880. Jane instructed the group of Girl Scouts from Midland and others on basic hand-sewing techniques and helped them get started on creating a period-appropriate skirt. They also learned how to decorate a buckram frame hat with period-correct materials.

The women from Fort McKavett organized a formal tea with music provided by a string trio of young living historians. In Officer’s Quarters 8, an area was set up where the women could sell or exchange items such as period clothing, shawls, purses, bonnets, gloves, crochet hooks, jewelry, and just about anything else a frontier lady might need. Meals included a light breakfast on Saturday and Sunday and an authentic Victorian lunch consisting of Chicken Fricassee (Thomas Jefferson’s own recipe), early spring green salad, green beans, peas, and apple pie. A light fare of luncheon meats, breads, and cheese was also served on Sunday.

The goal of the conference is to assist women interested in living history with correct interpretations of frontier women ranging from the 1850s–90s, allowing them to convey the real story of women on the frontier and dispelling the Hollywood image that is often times portrayed as truth. This year’s conference gathered women from as far away as Kansas, New Mexico, and Louisiana as well as many local Texas women. The conference is held annually on the second weekend of March, in conjunction with National Women’s Month.

Fort Griffin State Historic Site is located 15 miles north of Albany on U.S. Hwy 283, in the Texas Forts Trail Region.

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