When my ECW colleagues and I discussed commemorating Women’s History Month by writing about some of the women who’ve inspired us in our historical careers, my mind immediately jumped to my daughter, Stephanie. Long-time followers of the blog are familiar with Steph’s story as a life-long devotee of Stonewall Jackson (see “The Story of Stephwall” for a quick run-down). Last year, I wrote about why I’m especially invested in promoting Women’s History Month, which very much ties into my role as a father. At the time, Steph was getting ready to get married, representing a whole new chapter in her own personal history (see ECW’s March 2019 newsletter for those details).
That history continues to unfold. As I shared in this month’s newsletter, Steph just celebrated the arrival of her first child—my first grandchild—Sophie Marie Brand.
In these especially crazy times, we’re blessed that mother and daughter (and father, too) are all doing well. Steph told me the other day that she didn’t know she could love someone so much. “Now you’re starting to understand how much I love you,” I replied. Your kids never really understand until they have kids of their own.
I think of Steph’s hero, Stonewall Jackson, who wanted nothing more than to be a dad. In May 2017, I wrote about Jackson’s relationship with his infant daughter, Julia, and how that tied back to my own relationship with Steph. I won’t repeat here what I wrote about there, but I do hope you’ll take the time to read it if you haven’t already. My relationship with Steph proved to be the perfect entre into my study of the Civil War.
Nothing sums all that up better than Mort Kunstler’s painting Julia, which portrays the arrival of Mary Anna Jackson and 5-month-old Julia at Guiney Station in April 1863. Proud papa Stonewall walks his wife and daughter from the train to an awaiting carriage, holding an umbrella over them to shield them from the drizzle, unable to take his eyes off his “little comforter.” He had waited his whole life for that moment, and Kunstler beautifully captured the heart of the moment.
I felt that way about my own infant daughter, and now she knows what it’s like to feel that way, too. As Mark Twain once said, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes.
Thanks for joining us for another Women’s History Month. I hope you offer a quick “thanks” to the women in your own life who’ve enriched your love of history.