While researching for facts and information on the Hamburg exhibit that opens Thursday at the Arts and Heritage Center of North Augusta, I found out so many fascinating things about our community. I worked on a number of different areas but wanted to cover what life was like for the women and children in Hamburg.
We have very busy lives today as mothers and wives but in most ways even though we work outside of the home, we still have a much easier life. We can stop by and easily pick up a ready-made meal to take home for dinner. We can drop off clothing at the dry cleaners and run and quickly pick up a new outfit as needed.
Yes, there were tailors and dress makers, but the average person had to save or plan ahead to take advantage of these services. Most women learned to sew, knit, embroider, quilt, crochet, braid rugs and do lace work as well as needlepoint from their mothers or grandmother. They taught their daughters who carried these skills on to the next generation.
Today, we do these things as a hobby. Sixty years ago I learned sewing and embroidery from my grandmother. I sat and watched her braid rugs from fabric scraps or crochet rugs from those scraps. She did these chores in between cooking our meals from scratch (I wonder where that term comes from) and while doing laundry in an old wringer style washer. She had a garden, which my grandfather helped with when he got home from the train yards, yet I know she never felt she had enough time to get everything done. Still, she took time during my summer visits to teach me what all she could as she had been taught as a young woman feeling this was a part of my education as a woman.
My girls learned a few of the crafts that I liked but neither felt it was necessary. It was just something for fun. I poured my artistic skills into the clothes I made: sweaters I knitted and the quilts we needed while living overseas. I made rugs while living in Turkey and Italy so the floors would be warm and cozy. It was normal for me to embroider our pillow slips and sheets and towels or to appliqué curtains. I had a modern sewing machine, a 1939 Singer Featherweight, which I used until 1976. I then got my first stretch and sew style machine. How easy life became when it came to making clothing with that machine.
Yet, when I think about the fact that the ladies of Hamburg who sent 240 useful articles and garments to the Hospital at Ringgold, Ga., it is almost mind-boggling. Then seven ladies sent 167 of these garments from November to December of 1862 to the 7th South Carolina Regiment adding to the 162 items to make a total of 569 articles of clothing, blanket, comforts, etc. from the ladies of Hamburg.
These same ladies proposed giving a hot supper March 18, 1862 at the American Hotel to swell the amount already contributed towards the cost of a gunboat. Tickets were $1 at the door and half price for children. No ready-made pickup foods for these ladies.
The ladies of the society made up uniforms for six Companies and gave liberally all of the time and spent more than $2,000. They made up a bale of cloth that year.
The Augusta Chronicle told readers on March 18, 1863 that a “Capt. Croft of the 22ed South Carolina Regiment is returning thanks to the Hamburg women for their generous efforts."
Would you believe that one of the very first historic preservation societies in the United States was formed by the ladies of Hamburg? In 1853, the home of President George Washington was in terrible despair and a native of South Carolina named Pamela Cunningham wrote a letter to the Charleston Mercury newspaper asking ladies of the south to help care for Mount Vernon. In 1854, she founded the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union and served as the first regent.
The women of Hamburg jumped on the bandwagon to help save Mount Vernon and on April 4, 1854 they began the Hamburg Mount Vernon Association. The Mount Vernon Ladies Association still manages the home to this day and is recognized as the oldest private preservation organization in the United States.
Through all of this, these ladies raised their families and did all of this without modern lights or equipment. Strong hands and backs and some very tired eyes when all is said and done about them makes us sit up and take notice of what they managed to do for so many others.
We ladies of today can look back and smile at the strength of these ladies and know we come from good stock and that as busy as our lives seem, they are not by the standards of the ladies of Hamburg who did so much more for others in need.
When you pick up your knitting needles, crochet hooks, work on your samplers, sit at your sewing machine or work on your quilting, all of which are art forms today, take a moment and recall how life was like for the ladies of North Augusta and Hamburg of the 1800s when they were doing their thing.
Keep a smile on your face and art in your life. Remember, without art, life is just 'eh'.