Sunday, October 10, 2021

...Women in history, a Press Release, and a Podcast...

 “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”

~Virginia Woolf

This week has been my busiest week by far. I reviewed my galley, received my final book cover image, met my publicist who shared my book’s press release, had my interview air on The Ordinary Extraordinary Podcast, and our house had our windows replaced. I now have a garden window in my bathroom!  



It’s been a complete honor to learn about these women writers and then write about them. It’s also been a great honor to learn about the cemeteries and each of their places in history.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

...The harvest and enjoying ourselves OUR way...

The colors of the Canna are very fall.
This is the season to consider the harvest. The garden is still very much behaving like it is summer although I am presenting that the fall colors are not tropical plants. It has been a good garden season and I actually plan to go out to my back porch and do some reading for this week’s classes.

Pumpkin People!
Thinking of my own personal harvest, this week I completed my last read-through of my book, Women Writers Buried in Virginia that comes out on November 15, 2021. This is my last chance to change any content. After this, I can only fix typos. It’s stressful because I want to get everything as right as possible. I don’t want to misrepresent anyone or any place. It’s scary and exciting. Overall, I’m very proud of being able to share these women’s stories. I’m also proud of myself for focusing on the kind of scholarship that I have wanted to focus on for some time now.

Giant pumpkin vine without any pumpkins
It should be easy—cemeteries are an important part of our history; yet, people still put them in the spooky Halloween season, which perpetuates the myth that they’re scary places to frequent. They’re not and discussing them should not have one’s colleagues questioning one’s research interests… but that actually happened last week. After a conversation, a colleague actually told me that they now saw me as someone with more depth than just cemeteries, spooky things, and goth. I can roll my eyes and go on with my work-life because I have the privilege of being tenured and a full professor but it is still incredibly annoying. I am held to the same standards of teaching, scholarship, and service as my peers. Why can’t I just be myself and enjoy who I am without the passive aggressive criticism?
Black Coral Elephant Ears

One of the woman writers featured in my forthcoming book, Julia Magruder, who was a novelist who wrote for popular magazines such as Lippincott’s Magazine and the Ladies' Home Journal, wrote essays that addressed serious social issues, such as child labor laws and the changing roles of women. In 1907, she also became the first American woman to be awarded the “Order of the Palms” by the French Academie, conferred on those distinguished in the literary world.

She said, “Most of us are so afraid to enjoy ourselves in our way” (The Star Press Muncie, Indiana, Jun 24, 1907, 2). Ain’t that the truth!


Monday, September 6, 2021

...cemetery pipe fences...

Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery, part of the Historic Cemeteries of Alexandria, VA

When I’m walking through a cemetery, I’m attracted to picturesque scenes, those landscapes that resemble a gorgeous painting or some captivating image. While the artwork of gravestones tends to be my main focus along with the natural landscape, I am captivated by ironwork and cemetery fencing and frequently find myself attempting to read the maker’s mark and the inscriptions.

As long as I can recall, I have adored wrought iron and cast iron fencing. Rather hammered or poured into a mold, the designs catch my eye and draw me in. As a kid, I used to love going into the city and seeing the picket and scalloped picket points of the fencing. Forty years later, I haven’t changed much.

 Today when I walk through cemeteries, I admire what’s left of the ironwork. As changing attitudes about what was or was not aesthetically pleasing, many of the old cemetery fences were removed when they were no longer maintained.

Altoona Tribune (May 11, 1922 p. 12)
While we typically think of wrought iron and cast iron when we think of cemetery fencing, I rather enjoy finding intricately designed pipe fences, or gas pipe fences or pipe rail fences. These pipe fences can still be found throughout our local Virginia cemeteries and some of theme can be quite attractive while many are plain pipes with the purpose of signifying the space. 

I always think of pipe fencing as just the right height to trip you if you’re not paying attention. They are nice reminders to stay off the grass and the flowers.

drawing from Chicora Foundation website.

Depending on the style of the pipe fence, there may be double piping such as the example in the historic drawing from the Chicora Foundation or single piping as shown in the example of the family plot in Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia.

I have included some photos of other intricately designed cast iron posts that are part of pipe fences.

Oakwood Cemetery, Richmond, VA
Mount Zion Cemetery Washington D.C.

Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery, part of the Historic Cemeteries of Alexandria, VA
















Not quite a decade ago, I became the owner of a piece of 1870s cast iron pipe fencing with an angel when a very rusted and broken pipe fence needed to be removed from a family plot for safety reasons. The family had the option of repairing the fencing, which would have been expensive and nearly impossible since so little of the original fence remained or they could remove the fence and sell the old rusty bits for scraps or through a local antique dealer who could reach out to suckers like me who love rusty pieces of history. With the amount of rust I have inside my house and out in the garden as "yard art," I keep up with my tetanus shots.  

Ethically sourced pipe-rail angel. The other side is completely rusted out.

Just as a reminder, if you purchase anything that is coming from a cemetery, look for reputable antique dealers and talk to the original sellers if possible. Cemetery-related paraphernalia is frequently stolen and sold. A few months ago, I had someone reach out on social media about a gorgeous fence gate with connections to Richmond but the story did not add up and when I pushed in my questioning, they blocked my account from reaching out any further or reporting them. 

Artifacts from historical grave sites, and any grave-related items cannot be sold on eBay. Any government or military medallions or plaques should not be sold or purchased, and such activity should be reported.