Since I’ve been working in the battlefield preservation field for over a year with Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, I’ve been inspired to learn about the long legacy of women who have been supporters and influencers for preservation through the decades. With a focus on the preservation of Civil War sites, the stories of Annie Snyder at Manassas Battlefield, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association (not Civil War directly, but a preservation movement in the late antebellum era), and the stories of women who went above and beyond to save written or visual pieces of history, family land, or oral stories are all fascinating.
This March to celebrate Women’s History Month I wanted to interview some ladies who work, volunteer, or are just starting to explore historic preservation. I hoped that it would create a way to preserve some pieces of women’s history currently in the making and that I would gain valuable insight from talking with these ladies who helped blaze a trail for preservation that I am proud to follow. From my “library living room,” the journey began of listening and asking questions to learn from these ladies and it created a special celebration for Women’s History Month that I’m excited to share with you.
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Mary Koik from American Battlefields Trust spent part of an afternoon sharing about her role as Director of Communications, and I was excited about this interview to discussion the professional, full-time job of working in the preservation field. In fact, she had been an inspiration to me for several years.
In 2018, Chris Mackowski interviewed Mary Koik about her work, and in that interview she offered these words of advice:
As a follow-up to my interview with Hallowed Ground editor Mary Koik earlier this month, I asked her, “If a young woman wanted to get into Civil War-related publishing, as a writer or author, what advice would you offer? In other words, if she wanted to follow in your footsteps, what should she do?”
Here’s Mary’s answer, applicable for aspiring writers—female and male, alike!
Mary Koik: The best way to start a journey to being a competent writer and editor in ANY subject area is to become, first and foremost, a reader.
When I read that a few years ago, it was like light-bulbs of opportunity burst in my mind! I was inspired and hopeful. (Make sure to read the interview or at least the rest of the answer which is in the postscript.) So imagine my nervous excitement when—in January 2020—I found out that Mary Koik would be giving me a quick tutorial on magazine publication as I took on some new responsibilities at work. It was a short, gracious, and helpful email exchange, but then we didn’t correspond for months or get to meet in person because…well…2020 and the pandemic.
The opportunity to have an interview conversation with Mary was a special highlight and the first time we got to “meet.” We chatted about preservation, communication, challenges and triumphs for the history field, changes in the last few years, and hopeful anticipations for the future of preservation and women’s roles in this area of work.
I appreciated the encouragement, perspective, and guidance that Mary offered in the filmed and un-recorded portions of our visit that day. The discussion about the professional work and detailed communications about battlefield preservation created an an inspiring and encouraging way to start my Zoom chat journey to explore and learn more about women’s involvement in the preservation movement.
Next: Chatting with a grassroots organizer for battlefield preservation in North Carolina…stay tuned!