When I was eighteen I learned how to sew, and quickly became passionate about making historical clothing. I started a blog to record my sewing adventures, and called it "Hester's Needle", after Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter. Perhaps the choice of this name foretold that I too would be cast out of a community in the future.
During my late teens and early twenties I used to attend a Civil War Ball every summer in an old historic town in Montana. People from all over would come together, do a little parade around the old town, and then dance the night away to a live band. It was the highlight of our year and my friend and I would spend all winter making our dresses. I have lots of pictures of us at various dances still up on the blog.
Almost ten years later I hear rumors that I am being accused of being a Confederate sympathizer. I see a couple Instagram posts and dig in and find some comments on a Reddit thread regarding this issue. A user called "elocut" says the only proof she can find is "...a photo of Maria at a Civil War era ball With a confederate flag in the background". She goes on to say that she thinks this is "distasteful' and "bad judgement" on my part and that if she were an employer looking to hire me she probably wouldn't "...especially if I thought there was any chance she would be interacting with people of color. She obviously has no training in diversity, and made some very poor choices in speaking out in that video, and not taking it down when other people commented". Entire Reddit Thread Here.
When I first saw this Reddit thread back in February this person had also included a link to my blog for people to follow and see for themselves how terrible of a person I was in my youth. I see now that there are deleted posts, one of which must've been the one containing this link. For, she probably realized that if people followed the link they would see my nerdy blog with all my historical sewing, and probably realize that there wasn't much there at all to condemn me. In fact, it could inspire people to sew and get into historical costuming themselves!
As you can see in the picture at the top, dated September 3, 2009 (I was twenty), there is indeed a Confederate flag along with American flags (I'm in the red dress on the left). By the way some people were talking online it was as if I had spent my youth marching around waving a Confederate flag at Civil War events. One person on IG said "It doesn't surprise me". Another said "wow, Civil War Ball? Ugh Where did you find that? So awful. I hope people figure out who she really is and she has consequences".
I don't know the entire history of Virginia City, but even though Montana territory supported the North, Virginia City did send money to the South. So, there were most likely people from both sides residing in the city during the Civil War. At the ball I attended some men would even come dressed in uniforms from opposing sides. I guess it was a Civil War after all. Friend against friend. Neighbor against neighbor.
Also, if you really want get into the minute details, I'm standing on the other side in this picture, closer to an American flag...and next to a person of color (and without any diversity training...how did I manage it?).
Of course I'm glad the North won. As were my ancestors who lived during this time.
I am so thankful for everyone involved in putting on The Grand Ball For Peace each year. I hope I can attend again in the future.