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February 28, 2009

CW's Women's History Month programs explore the role of women in the birth of our nation

Discover the contributions of women in 18th-century Virginia during Women’s History Month. Throughout March, programs in Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area and Art Museums examine what life was like for women in the colonial capital.

During In the Parlour, guests discover what skills -- including tea, poetry, music and dance -- it took to be considered both amiable and accomplished. 10:30 a.m. March 2, 5, 9 and 12, Raleigh Tavern.

A Lady and Her Music uncovers the music that enlivened the households of the 18th century. When time permitted, the ladies of the middling and better sort indulged themselves and their families with music on the popular harpsichord/spinet or the English guitar. 10 a.m. to noon March 3, 10, 17, 24, and 31, Wythe House. 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. March 6, 13, 20, and 27, Geddy House.

Women have been acting onstage since 1660. Explore the rich tradition of English women of the theatre and their colonial counterparts in the program, Women on the English Stage. 11:30 a.m. March 5, 12, 18 and 25, Raleigh Tavern.

Martha Washington had many roles during her lifetime -- wife, mother, grandmother and plantation mistress. As America’s first First Lady, she defined a role that has served as a model down through the centuries. Join Mrs. Washington in the late spring of 1789 for The Duties of the President’s Wife: A Conversation with Martha Washington. 1:30 p.m. March 3 and 10 and 12:30 p.m. March 17, 24 and 31, DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

Hear from Martha Washington what it was like in the winter camps during the Revolution and see how she and other women supported the “Glorious Cause” during the program, Lady Washington at the Winter Camps. 12:30 p.m., March 6, 13, 16, 23 and 30, DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades department demonstrates women were indeed involved in both business and trade. Discover the broad range of work and responsibility shared by women of today and their sisters from the 18th century during the program, Women’s Work in Business and Trade. In this informal setting guests are invited to visit with some of these women who are working many of the same trades as their foremothers. 11 a.m. March 4, 11, 18 and 25, Governor’s Palace East Advance Building.

The Highs and Lows of Ladies Fashions invites guests to learn about the latest fashions. See fashions from head to toe and high to low as staff members model what was fashionable and affordable in the 18th century depending on one’s pocketbook. 10, 10:15, 10:30, 10:45, 11, 11:15, 11:30 and 11:45 a.m. and noon, March 19 and 26, Wigmaker Shop.

During the American Revolution many of Virginia’s free citizens turned to newly established local cloth producers for their textile needs. Work on Williamsburg’s cloth factory started in 1776. Virginia Gazette advertisements indicate that linen and hempen cloth were being produced there by 1777. Before that time, weaving had been done on many Virginia plantations for decades. Yarn spun by slaves during bad weather was made into cloth and used to help clothe those same slaves. The so-called fulling process renders the woolen cloth softer, fuzzier, thicker and therefore warmer for weight. Guests are invited to stop by and get their hands wet as they help full the wool cloth during Fulling, Spinning and Dyeing at the Weaver. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., March 28, Weave Room on the Wythe property.

Colonial Williamsburg’s Women’s History Month programs uncover the extraordinary women of the 18th century and their stories. Just because women couldn’t vote or enlist, they were far from silent when it came to the Revolution. Propaganda then, as today, could be an effective tool in swaying opinions and mustering support. The program, Daughters of Liberty, uncovers what women did in the fight for independence using those sharpest of weapons: words and wit. 12:30 p.m. March 4 and 11, Raleigh Tavern.

It is common to see women in the military today, but it was very unusual during the struggle for independence. While there were many who followed the army as wives, nurses, laundresses and so forth, a few joined the ranks in disguise. An Uncommon Soldier explores the experience of women in the ranks and on the battlefield. 1:30 p.m. March 7 and 21, Magazine.

During the program, Freedom to Slavery, hear the compelling story of Elizabeth, an enslaved African American woman forced back into slavery after living free with the Shawnee Indians on the western frontier. Reservations required. 10 a.m. to noon, March 14, 21 and 28, Millinery Shop.

The Bray Society in England promoted education for enslaved children in the Colonies. In Williamsburg, Ann Wager conducted the Bray School for Negro children in the community. During the program, Meet a Nation Builder, Anne Wager, learn about her hopes and aspirations for their academic achievement. 10 a.m. to noon, March 16, 23 and 30, Mary Stith Shop.

During Created Equal, but Treated Differently, meet Lydia Broadnax, former enslaved cook of George Wythe, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, in an unforgettable presentation that illustrates her thoughts regarding freedom and equality. 12:30 p.m., March 18 and 25, DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum.

A Colonial Williamsburg admissions ticket or Good Neighbor Card provides access to enjoy these movies.

Programs and exhibitions at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum are supported by the DeWitt Wallace Endowment Fund.

Entrance to Colonial Williamsburg Art Museums is through the Public Hospital of 1773 at 326 W. Francis St. The museums will be open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For information and reservations call (757) 220-7724.

In addition to these programs, the Electronic Field Trip, Remember the Ladies, will air on March 26. In 1776, Abigail Adams requested that her husband, future president John Adams, “remember the ladies” when establishing the government and laws of the new nation. Examine the roles, responsibilities and daily activities of early American women.

Produced by Colonial Williamsburg’s division of productions, publications and learning ventures and underwritten by the William and Gretchen Kimball Young Patriots Fund, the program takes place at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern time in the Bruton Heights School Lane Auditorium and is free and open to the public. The award-winning live, interactive television series also is available nationally on many PBS stations. For information, call toll-free 1-800-761-8331 or visit

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution guests interact with history through “Revolutionary City®” – a dramatic live street theater presentation.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121