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February 26, 2008

CW showcases contributions of 18th-century working women during Women's History Month in March

During Women’s History Month weekend, March 8-9, women in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades showcase the contributions of working women in Virginia’s colonial capital.

March 8

  • The Mantua Maker Pays a Call, 9:30-11:30 a.m., Benjamin Powell site. The milliner imported goods. Wool was one of the most common types of cloth and was available in a wide variety of colors and qualities. Janea Whitacre, mistress of the Millinery Shop, will discuss what the mantua maker can create with her woolens.

    March 8-9

  • Basketmaking: A Family Affair, 9:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m., Benjamin Powell site. Basketmaking was a domestic activity rather than a business in the 18th century. Most families made baskets in a variety of shapes and sizes for personal use. Both men and women made baskets and taught their children as soon as they were old enough to learn. Basketmaker apprentices Terry Thon and Kristy Engel now are working on baskets that can be used as containers for many things in the 18th-century home, including wool from the Leicester Longwool sheep.
  • The Butcher, The Baker, 9:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m., Benjamin Powell site. Sheep and lamb comprised part of the diet of 18th-century Virginians. Historic Foodways journeyman Barbara Scherer and Historic Foodways apprentice Susan Holler demonstrate how they were prepared for the table at the Powell kitchen.
  • The Leicester Longwool and the Revolution, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Benjamin Powell site. In 1774, an association was formed in Virginia that called for, among other things, the improvement of the breeding of sheep to increase wool production. A non-importation agreement cut off imports of British goods, including wool, and local production was required to pick up the slack. Elaine Shirley, manager of Colonial Williamsburg’s Rare Breeds program, and livestock husbander Carrie MacDougall talk about the importance of Leicester Longwool sheep in the 18th century.
  • On the Job Injuries – See the Apothecary, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Apothecary Shop. Any job presents some risk of injury. Explore what the Apothecary Shop would offer people who sustained injuries with Apothecary supervisor Robin Kipps and Apothecary interpreters Sharon Cotner, Kris Dippre and Susan Pryor.

    March 9

  • Spinning and Weaving for to Dye, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Benjamin Powell site. During the American Revolution, many of Virginia’s free citizens turned to newly established local cloth producers for their textile needs. Work on Williamsburg’s cloth factory, the Williamsburg Manufactory, started in 1776. The factory was built on the banks of Queens Creek in York County. Before that time, weaving had been done on many Virginia plantations for decades. Sandy Gibb, an interpreter in Colonial Williamsburg’s Weave Shop, will illustrate how weaving was done in the 18th century.

    Additional programs throughout March examine issues pertinent to women in the 18th century. Apothecary interpreter Sharon Cotner offers a look at how women in the 18th century dealt with matters of maturation, fertility and growing older in the program, Growing Up, Growing Older – The Clinical Guide to Issues Peculiar to Women. The presentation can be seen at 9:30 a.m. March 4 and 11 at the Mary Stith House and 11 a.m. March 18 and 25 at the Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. This program is not recommended for young children.

    At 11 a.m. on March 6 and 27, Women’s Work in Business and Trade explores the broad range of work and responsibility shared by women of today and their sisters in the 18th century. In this informal setting, journeyman cooper Ramona Vogel Hill leads a discussion with women in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades who work as interpreters, apprentices, journeymen, journeywomen and masters and mistresses of their respective trades. The programs will be conducted in the Governor’s Palace East Advance Building.

    Explore 18th-century children’s fashions with staff from the Millinery Shop during the program, As Fashion Grows Up, 1:30 p.m. March 13 and 20 at the Mary Stith House. Fashion and Health examines the relationship between the making and wearing of clothing and issues of health and life passages for 18th-century women. Apothecary supervisor Robin Kipps and mistress of the Millinery Shop Janea Whitacre will be on hand to answer questions at 1:30 p.m. March 19 and 26 at the Mary Stith House.

    A special presentation of Our Common Passage will be shown. This compelling one-woman drama depicts the lives of four women and their shared experiences of motherhood, childbirth and loss against the dramatic backdrop of colonial America in the days before and during the American Revolution. A gentry woman deals with the loss of a child, a rural midwife celebrates life amid the hardships of war, an enslaved woman reflects on her family and loss, a first-time mother faces fear and isolation of giving birth on Virginia's western frontier. The award-winning video can be seen at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. March 2 and 9 and 11:30 a.m. March 16, 23 and 30 at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

    A valid Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket or Good Neighbor Card provides access to these programs.

    Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®” -- a dramatic live street theater presentation -- is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

    Media Contact:
    Penna Rogers
    (757) 220-7121

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