Wednesday, November 18, 2015

women of the confederate

What happens when a group of women dare to dream?  It’s the question we’ve been asking all month.  Last month, my parents came to visit in pursuit of their annual fall foliage sighting.  I love when they come to visit in October because it means 2 things: I get to plan a fun adventure and cater to my parents and my camera gets dusted off to capture it all.

I had a lovely jaunt planned down Hwy 16 to the Pig Trail Section of Hwy 23 making a big turn on 215 to find the Oark General Store.  But the adventure was scheduled to begin at the mouth of a Civil War journey at the Headquarters’ House and Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville.  Both were little treasures I found on a list of fall must see spots in Northwest Arkansas.  And, a Tuesday morning proved to be the perfect quiet moment in a place that took my breath.

Women of the Confederate and the story behind the Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville, AR #NWArkCares

After I passed the beautiful stone entrance, I stopped at the first site marker to read.  I wanted a little perspective before I began exploring.  What I saw stopped me in my tracks.  I was a marker traced and outlined with a series of picture of a group of women from the late 1800’s.  My vintage soul always loves seeing pictures of women from this time period.  But these pictures were different.  It wasn’t a group shot….it was a series of headshots.  And since this wasn’t a journalism project of me looking through old yearbooks or a museum exhibit at the Girl Scout Headquarters (yes, I’ve explored both this year!) I knew there must be something significant to the fact that individual pictures were displayed of several women. 

Women of the Confederate and the story behind the Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville, AR #NWArkCares

And, I was not disappointed as I began reading about these famed women.  Brave women.  Dreamers.  Doers.  Women who did not let “no” deter them.  Women who developed a cause and fought for it by raising money to make it happen. Something that all the sudden felt very familiar. 

Fayetteville, AR.  1865.  A town is rebounding from devastation.  Devastation from several battles.  The rural terrain the perfect setting for a showdown.  All was delivered.  Young men, families, a community buried in mass.  Roadsides, pastures and fields all became graves.  While the government made provision for Union soldiers, nothing was done for their Confederate counterpart. 

Nothing that is until a group of women, proper Southern ladies, opted to gather around the cause of properly caring for the “Confederate dead.”  These ladies formed the Southern Memorial Association of Washington County.  Their first cause was “securing the land for the establishment of the Confederate Cemetery.”

Women of the Confederate and the story behind the Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville, AR #NWArkCares

Women of the Confederate and the story behind the Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville, AR #NWArkCares

A year later, after petitions through the local newspaper and “dimes and dollars” fundraisers, they dedicated the Confederate Cemetery with 3,000 onlookers.  A memorial plaque in the cemetery holds this quote from one of the founding members.

“These monuments we build will speak their message to generations.  These voiceless marbles in their majesty will stand as vindicators of the Confederate soldier.  They will lift from these brave men the opprobrium of rebel and stand them in line of patriots.  This is not alone a labor of love; it is a work of duty as well.” –Lizzie Pollard

I remember just being taken aback reading all this thinking, “of course a group of women did this.”  I’m not being feminist or anything extra, other than being amused by the great accomplishments of women gathered.  I found it interesting that each of the women listed as being part of the founding group were also listed as who they were wife of.  No doubt some of that was because they were fallen men or their dads, brothers, neighbors and friends.  But, why does the identity of a woman have to be tied to the man who she was married to.

Instead, today I honor a group women.  Women who did something in their local community.  They gathered, petitioned, caused and created.  They have faces and names alone.  And, a lasting beautiful memorial of the work they did.  

Women of the Confederate and the story behind the Confederate Cemetery in Fayetteville, AR #NWArkCares
Confederate Cemetery did not disappoint.  The rows are beautifully aligned.  The display is arranged into 4 segments and honors the battles with neighboring states.  It’s a peaceful, quiet place overlooking the Fayetteville Square and Dickson Street.  Its collection, feet from the battleground, serves as a respite and honors lives.  The lives of those interned.  And, the lives of those who caused and created; the women who led a community to honor and remember.

This post is part of the #NWArkCares series by the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers group. To view other posts, visit the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers Pinterest Board or follow #NWArkCares through social media.

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