Speak, Sister!

Music and storytelling were a huge part of the 19th century, so it was good to take a break from the written word and the silence of archives and libraries for a program at the Athenaeum in Old Town on March 10. "Speak, Sister" featured excerpts read by Donise Stevens, Mariel Penberthy, and Catherine Aselford from letters/diaries of Harriet Jacobs, Isabel Emerson, and Anne S. Frobel, respectively. We know Harriet Jacobs as Julia Wilbur's friend and fellow relief agent (Donise reading on the right, below). Isabel was a young "secesh" woman in Alexandria and Anne an older, more strident one who lived on a farm south of the city. Excerpts from the diaries of both women survive. Isabel's is in the Special Collections Room at the Alexandria library, while Anne's has been compiled and annotated in a book.

Punctuating their readings, music from Dead Men's Hollow, a wonderful bluegrass-y group in which my colleague Amy Rogers Nazarov plays. They play songs from the era and original compositions that evoke it. Dead Men's Hollow was the name given to Rosslyn, across the river from Georgetown, in its bawdier days past. Give them a listen from some previous performances.


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