With the historic Shirley House as backdrop, Vicksburg National Military Park celebrates Women’s History Month during March, through a series of special programs and exhibits detailing the effect the Civil War had on women’s every-day life and culture. The conflict became a significant turning point in both the North and the South, drastically changing women’s roles as the nation moved toward the 20th century.
With the national theme for 2012 focusing on women’s education and the empowerment it provided to attain equality and open new opportunities, the exhibits detailed information on the expected responsibilities and duties of running a household during the war, and how life often turned to misery for many women left to run the farms and plantations of the South, while ladies of the North achieved a sense of achievement when they replaced men in industry and government occupations. Also noted are the attitudes concerning the 19th century fashion ideals of the ‘fairer sex,’ which affected the lives of women, and how rebellion against these fashion standards was just one of many significant strides that paved the way for the suffrage movement of the late 1800s-early 1900s.
The ability to use the Shirley House for special events and exhibits has increased Vicksburg National Military Park’s interpretive effort, providing an enhanced experience for visitors while touring the park. Restoration of the historic structure was completed in 2011 with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and the park is currently working to develop a furnishings and exhibit plan for the house.