“Women Behind These Walls” is a project coming soon to Gettysburg that will educate visitors on the experiences of women civilians who lived in the town during the Battle of Gettysburg.
“It's a series of posters that we're putting together to put in different locations throughout town,” said Ashley Andyshak Hayes, director of advocacy and public relations at the YWCA Gettysburg & Adams County. “(Each poster) will have a photo of a woman who lived here during the battle and a brief quote from her.
It will be placed someplace in town that was significant to their life.''
Andyshak Hayes; Linda Clark, Licensed Battlefield Guide and Civil War author; Deb McCauslin, local historian and owner of For The Cause Productions; Angela Keen Badjie, Supervisor of Direct Services at Survivors, Inc.; and Joanne Lewis, Licensed Town Guide and Licensed Battlefield Guide are working together on an ad hoc committee to make this project come to fruition this summer.
The project idea and committee began unofficially at a County Commissioners meeting in January that Keen Badjie, Clark, and Andyshak Hayes attended.
“I was representing Survivors, Inc. for Stalking Awareness Month when Linda presented her recent book ('The Battle For Gettysburg: What Was It Like For The Citizens of 1863?') to those in attendance,” said Keen Badjie. “That prompted me to think about the experience of women during that time and during the battle. I wondered if anyone had ever written a collection specific to womens' experiences during that time.”
After the meeting, Keen Badjie approached Clark with her questions, and she invited Andyshak Hayes into the conversation. Clark was pleased with the interest expressed in conversation on that topic.
“When I was approached about participating in the `Women Behind the Walls' project, I was excited to find like-minded people,” she said. “It was so gratifying to know that there are other people who are as amazed by the stories of these local citizens as I am. Finally these unsung heroines will get the recognition they deserve.”
Clark, a Gettysburg native, became interested in studying the civilians of her town when her third-grade teacher read a historical fiction book that described the experiences of children living in Gettysburg at the time of the battle.
“The stories of the soldiers who participated in the battle have been well researched and documented,” said Clark. “However, many visitors who come to tour the area are equally interested in the local citizens of Gettysburg because they can better identify with them. After all, few people have military experience, but we all have `civilian' experience.”
There will be 20 women featured this summer.
“It was actually quite hard to pick which women to use for this project,” said Lewis, who got access to the photos and biographies for the project from the Adams County Historical Society, the National Park Service, and personal archives. “There are so many extraordinary stories to be told. Hopefully we can do some of the other women in upcoming years.”
The posters are going up in the beginning of June, and they will stay up at least for the summer. They will be located throughout town at 20 locations total on Carlisle Street, Baltimore Street, Chambersburg Street, Middle Street, and Washington Street.
“It's sort of amazing how easy it was to get a lot of these businesses on board,” said Andyshak Hayes. “I wasn't sure how people would feel about having one more thing in their window or on their business. The people I talked to were really excited about it; they thought it was a great idea, something original.”
There is a self-guided tour, which will be printed in brochures that people can pick up at various locations around town including Mr. G's Ice Cream and the Town Guide station at the Gettysburg Hotel.
“I'm hoping people will take the time to pick up one of the brochures,” said Andyshak Hayes. “Depending on how much people want to walk, they could probably walk the whole tour at once.”
Andyshak Hayes expects the project to be a unique learning experience for most visitors.
“I think unless you're engrossed in history, very well-versed in Civil War history, these are going to be people that you have never heard of before,” she said. “It'll be new stories and new things for people to learn. I've really learned a lot just from reading these bios and some of the civilian accounts.”
Working at the YWCA, which stands for Eliminating Racism and Empowering Women, it was important to Andyshak Hayes to help this project get going.
“It's a big part of what our mission is, so I'm happy we were able to be a part of it,” she said.
Keen Badjie, with her position at Survivors, saw the importance of recognizing these women as well.
“We believe that it is essential that for women to be recognized,” she said.
“That ties directly into our vision at Survivors, Inc., which is an end to domestic violence and sexual assault. We know that this will only happen if we successfully challenge certain barriers that have sadly and successfully kept women in a place that is not equal to men. The Civil War was fought to hold a nation together when economics and definition of humanity diverged. On some levels, the fight is not yet over.”
Lewis is excited to help share the experiences of citizens living in the midst of the battle.
“I think the importance of this project is the recognition of the `other' story of Gettysburg,” she said. “We always hear about the great battle that was fought here and discuss troop maneuvers, leadership decisions, tactics and strategies, but we seldom stop to think what effect the war and the battle had on the civilian population as a whole and the women in particular. What the women of this town did in response to the tragedy of the battle is nothing short of awe inspiring.”
Lewis noted the town's environment after the battle _ there were more than
24,000 wounded soldiers to be cared for, there were dead men and animals all over the place, there were millions of flies, and the troops had used most supplies.
“Despite all the hardships, the women went to work, quietly, with dignity and grace,” said Lewis. “That's a story that needs to be told. It's a story of courage and perseverance.”
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