Women’s History Month: A Retrospective


“Stephwall” Mackowski

For more than two decades now, I’ve taken a special interest in Women’s History Month. Some people might consider that to be an unconventional choice for a guy, but as the father of a daughter, I felt a responsibility to make sure my little girl knew she could be anything she wanted to be when she grew up.

For a while, she even wanted to be Stonewall Jackson. And one of his most famous aphorisms has served as one of her own personal mottos: “You may be whatever you resolve to be.” She’s 24 now, and a police officer, and I’m feeling pretty good about her ability to make her own way in the world now, thanks to her own resolve.

But two decades of promoting female role models for her has left an indelible mark on me, as well. 

While my daughter might no longer need those role models, other young women do, and I think that’s especially important in the field of Civil War history. Military history, in particular, is male dominated, as are many components of public history. So is the membership of many Civil War roundtables. (And look at the male-to-female ratio of ECW’s own line-up of authors, even.) I’m not saying that’s a bad thing—just a reality of the field.

But that’s why it’s still important to hold up female role models.

This year, I took time to talk with four women who work in various fields in Civil War history

  • Elizabeth Heffernan, executive director of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (preservation)
  • Caroline Janney, associate professor of history at Purdue University (academia)
  • Mary Koik, editor of Hallowed Ground magazine (publishing)
  • Emma Murphy, park guide at Andrew Johnson National Historic Site (NPS)

Those interviews offered a more in-depth way for me to follow up on profiles ECW ran last year, which we’d invite you to revisit if you’d like. Correspondent Emily Losito profiled:

I also want to invite you to look at some of the profile we’ve done of our own ECW contributors

Somewhere out there, I hope a little girl is wondering about the Civil War in the same way my own daughter did once upon a time—and that she has the chance to meet one of these outstanding women and see them as a role model.

4 Responses to Women’s History Month: A Retrospective

  1. Chris–women don’t age out of needing role models! Even at my age I look both ahead of me and behind me to be inspired by women who care deeply about the role of the military in our country’s history. ECW has been such a welcoming place for me–I have been inspired to continue my education, to write books, to blog, and to keep moving forward with something that was on hold in my life for over 40 years. I say Huzzah and at least two Tigers to ECw for having this perspective. I never lost hope.

  2. While I can tell you this in person when you visit our Round Table in April, I too want to say thank you very much for featuring women in your interviews in March. I have known Mary for years, but it was a pleasure to meet the other women. Thanks for the introduction.

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