Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Week in the Confederacy

 Warning: here be a picture-heavy post!

Spending a week in the Athenaeum Rectory Girl's school was actually a pretty wonderful experience for me.  Other than a few instances which I'll brush on later it was a week of fun, art and new friends, as well as heat and mosquitoes.  But the last two can hardly be helped!
 We drove into Nashville the day before and stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast with a very amusing bathtub (amusing to C, at least, who thought that the shower nozzle was a phone at first!)  That's where we got our first taste of the distinctly Southern brand of congeniality which I felt so much of during the trip.  The proprietor just cared so much about our comfort..
The next day we made our way to Columbia.  We had to get there early so mama could catch her plane back to Chi-town, so we had quite a lot of time to kill while in costume.
(We also got in trouble for going off campus to get cheese sandwiches.  In our defense, they told us it was alright to go on a walk, but they didn't mention not to leave the yard...)
At the back porch! Ignore my petticoat, darp.

 The house was an absolutely darling 1830s mansion filled with lovely, original artifacts.

 Our host family was as new to all of this as we were, and being that they just moved in, gave us the use of several of their huge rooms to occupy.  And of course, we made quite a mess of them.
And this at the beginning of the week, too!

It was usually between 80 and 90 degrees, though the building was air conditioned, so I got a good deal of use from my sheer.  Even though it did get its fair amount of tears and stains, sigh.
Carriage rides!

Dem ankles!
 We had four or five classes per day, such as needlework, crochet (which I learned that I'm terrible at,) singing, art, penmanship, etiquette and domestic work.

Kate's dress... I can't even... /jaw drops/
Sara being a cutie, per usual
Look at all of my neat little 'e's, hah!
On one of the days we took a brief tour of the cemetery plots where the original family was interred, though it was too hot to stay for very long.

But for most of our free time we hung out in the double parlor and goofed around and sang Disney songs and sewed - the hours spent there were the most enjoyable of the trip for me.
Archangel et Jocelyn's peace sign
Church - the best place to goof off.
Speaking of church, we went to church service every single day.  For me as an agnostic that was pretty unusual, but by the end of the week I'd memorized the Te Deum and the Lord's Prayer and knew when to stand up and sit down and kneel on the little pillow or read out of our rad 1860s repro bible.  It was quite a cultural experience!
Graces in the yard
During the tea
On the last day, before graduation, we visited Rippavilla, a gorgeous antebellum plantation.  And just as if they knew my heart better than I knew my own, they brought us there to see an antique show.  SO much love.
I didn't have too much time to take pictures... :c
And then graduation and commencement, which were both wonderful despite my dress being exceedingly low cut (wearing a different corset than I drafted it over, erp.)  My harp piece went off without a hitch and nobody tripped over the church stairs off of the dias.
The lovely Ms. Flautt!
Yeah, Janet Jackson moment waiting to happen on my part.
 And all the menfolk were attentive. And kind.  And tall.  And I would have climbed them like a tree had I the chance.  No lie.

As for the political part, it played a seemingly minor role.  Mr. Orman's class on 'current events' was mostly factual with a few amusing gems like 'the North was settled by English puritans who didn't like to have any fun, the South was settled by brave nat'listic Scots-Irish Braveheart people.'  But when the etiquette teacher read an excerpt from the Diary of Virginia Clay I nearly cracked a tooth grinding them so hard.  It was an excerpt regarding James Hammond's plantation, which I HAVE read factual records of and it is NOT a little slaveocratic heaven like it was portrayed as.  But in the part that she read Clay talks about how the happy little negro savages live in their happy little negro homes with their honky-tonk little negro culture, isn't it so cute! what would those savages do without us white people?
I mean, read any excerpt you want about life, art and culture in the 1860s.  But read a section so drenched in racism and upholding that to be right, to demonstrate that slavery was a positive good(?!?) and I won't be able to take you seriously.  At all.

But that was really the only problem that I had.  I didn't much mind being walked around the ballroom by handsome, attentive men, if only because it was a change from the usual grunts back home.  So there's that.
All in all, I'd do it again.  I made a lot of new friends, and I feel like I'm in a little sisterhood of belles, and like Andrew Jackson I'm a huge sucker for secretive societies.  All in all, a lovely time for a northerner down South!


  1. How cool was that???!!! I saw your last post, and I wasn't sure exactly what you meant but now I get it...amazing! I'm sure it was a bit of a culture shock...I have a few northern friends and they are "shocked" that we all hug everybody down here, and yes, call me "religious" even though I'm just a Christian! :P I guess if you were something like agnostic, anything else would be religious, but for me it's just a relationship with Jesus. I'm not sure what type of church the girl school had you attend, but I for sure don't kneel on a pillow or have the stained glass window paintings like that. :)Sounds interesting though :O
    The effort you put into your clothes sure payed off, you looked beautiful :D. And so did your friend in the yellow plaid, I love the little peplum at the back of her jacket. And why is it that boys elsewhere are taller than the boys around us? Everybody in "our" regiment happens to be like 5'4" or something but when we went to a ball the guys there were like 6'4" or something :D I prefer tall myself, it's just much easier to spin, and you don't feel like your partner is a younger brother.
    I'm glad you had fun, that sure was an experience of a lifetime! And I'm glad you enjoyed the south, you'll have to come back to visit us southerners again! :)
    ~Theresa :)

    1. Oh goodness, sorry for that long comment :O oops. I can get carried away sometimes! But you really did do a good job! And thanks for posting all the pictures, that was a neat thing to do :)

    2. Thank you! I adore a long comment! And I totally understand wanting a taller partner. Being about 5'9 in heels it's a bit difficult for me, though. But there was one guy there who was 6'7.... /sighs/ They don't make ones like that up here in Illi - we're stuck with those of a more Douglasian stature than Lincolnian.
      The church was St. Peter's Episcopal church, which I believe to be more similar to the Catholic religion than most Protestant (??? not a religious scholar here)
      If you're still in the age range, I highly recommend going there next year. It's not really accurate in the least, but hey, it's a week in GWTW and a great opportunity to show of your dresses and have fun (and if I'm going we can totally hang out!)

  2. Well I'm 5'4" so anything a little taller than that is ok :P That would be sooo fun! I don't really have much of an 1860's wardrobe yet, but that would be a fun excuse to make one :D. I'll have to look into it! And I love hanging out so that would be great! :)
    Theresa :)

  3. Oh Fiona I am so envious!!! I have so wanted to attend the Athenaeum Rectory school for several summers now! :D I love all the dresses you wore. So what sewing project are you working on now?

    1. Youuuuu should come next year and we can chill together. Now I'm working on several projects, none of which are cooperating, which explains the fact that nothing is done, or will likely be done in the near future, ugh.