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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Preserving the Frontier Women’s Way of Life

By Mitch Baird, Fort Griffin Site Manager

The 8th Annual Frontier Women’s Living History Conference concluded last month, after three days of educational workshops and networking. Like last year, the conference was held at Fort Concho, in San Angelo, and hosted by Fort Griffin State Historic Site and the Frontier Women’s Living History Association. Friday’s activities included bunk set-up for those staying in the barracks and a Tunisian crochet workshop presented by Angela Grabowski.


Saturday was a full day of activities, starting off with registration and breakfast. The participants had the opportunity to participate in either an advanced seamstress workshop with Robin Gilliam, site manager at Eisenhower Birthplace, or a beginner seamstress workshop with Jane Lenoir, office manager at Fort Griffin. Many ladies brought dresses and other projects they needed help completing. Robin’s expertise in period dresses was greatly appreciated. Jane helped the ladies make an apron, which most finished over the course of the weekend. Afterward, Ann Dixon hosted a workshop on reticules—small, decorative, cloth purses.


As with past events, an 1870s-themed meal was served for lunch and was kept as period-correct as possible. This year, ham and sweet potatoes with salad and spring mix were served along with mixed vegetables, cold pea salad, and a gelatin desert. Period-correct gelatin deserts were researched, planned for, and almost implemented; however, cold and rainy weather caused a last-minute menu change, which included more hot dishes instead. Most participants appreciated the hot food, especially since we had more than an inch and a half of rain and mud!

After lunch, Rusty Garner showed the ladies how to prepare their hair in period-correct fashions. Rusty’s presentation even included the scientific explanation for why curly hair curls and other interesting facts about styling hair. Afterward, Angela Grabowski presented a Tunisian crochet trim workshop, and Sara Reeves concluded the day with a tea and fashion show. Most of the attendees stayed until well past 6 p.m., and by 7 p.m., Officer’s Quarters 8 was locked up for the night.


Sunday started bright and early with crazy quilts with Judy Moore. Next, Sharon Baird showed the ladies the art of quilling, which was so popular the ladies from Fort McKavett State Historic Site took quilling needles, paper, glue, and their new knowledge back to Fort McKavett to use at their West Texas Heritage Days event at the end of March. Joan Garrett finished the workshop off with a cross stitch design workshop.

More than 40 women participated this year, traveling from as far away as Kansas, Louisiana, and the distant corners of Texas. Next year’s conference will be held again at Fort Concho on March 7–9, 2013, and is tentatively titled “Who, What, Where and How do I Dress for an Event: Ladies, Gents, and Children Properly Clothed.” The general idea is to help people dress properly for their time period, fort, or event. This section of the conference will include lectures by historic preservation professionals and workshops to help people with their dresses, uniforms, and children’s clothing. If you are interested in learning more, contact Fort Griffin staff at 325.762.3592.

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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