Thursday, December 8, 2011

To Monumental Women

Damn Yankees.

So an English professor from NYC wrote a book called, "Virginia's Confederate Monuments" and talked about it at today's Banner Lecture at the Historical Society.

Moments before the talk began, the chatty octogenarian sitting next to me had mentioned going to a recent history lecture where the speaker was from Philly.

"I could tell he wasn't from down here because he kept saying nice things about the North," she'd sniffed.

Well, we certainly don't allow that down here. Wait, what year is this?

But she didn't have to worry about that kind of unpleasantness with author Timothy Sedore today.

His book was a virtual tribute to the Southern cause and the hundreds of memorials that were erected all over the state afterwards.

He showed slides of many of them, including two obscure ones (Lancaster and Tappahannock) I see on a regular basis.

Because there are distinct differences, he broke the monument-making down into three periods.

From the war's end through 1889, they tended to be funereal, objects of bereavement really, understandably since the catastrophic losses were so recent.

Then from 1890 through 1920, monuments were more celebratory in nature, highlighting the glorious deeds of those who fought for their state.

After a half century plus, the monuments took on a commemorative nature since so much time had passed.

Sedore said that the inscriptions on the monuments ranged from the cryptic to the banal to the provocative.

Interestingly, not a single one of the hundreds of Confederate monuments mentions the word slavery; that issue was always couched in words about fighting for Virginia or for the Constitution.

I was glad when he finally got around to discussing my people.

Since women had been the ones to originally organize efforts to raise funds to erect monuments, I was gratified to see that they earned a mention in some cases.

"To our loving and self-sacrificing Virginia women," says the text on one monument.

Hell, yes. Keeping the home fires burning is no easy task in wartime, or even post-war.

Nothing cryptic, banal or provocative about it, honey. That's just fact.

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