US Civil War - Unsung Heroines

Rowena Hall, 2009

US Civil War: The Unsung Heroines
During the American Civil War (1861-1865) many women signed up by dressing as young men. They largely went undetected because recruitment was fast and furious, involving only a quick general examination of physical attributes deemed necessary such as good teeth, eyesight, hearing and being able bodied. Full body examinations were either not practiced or afforded the time and money, and uniforms issued were ill fitting and oversized. Soldiers did not have to prove firearm experience or have army training; some recruits were self funded and did not belong to any official regiment or army. As many as 250 women are now being proven to have enlisted and some historians claim that at least as many as 700 women signed up. Many women were discovered when suffering from injury or after death, but some were discovered during childbirth. There are no recorded names of the women who gave birth, however at least six women are known to have enlisted that were, or became, pregnant. Women soldiers on both sides of the war gave birth and, whether Confederate or Union, endured extreme hardship as soldiers.

The "History Bearing" series is designed to reveal historical stories of women whom art history has not represented honestly or at all. By placing pregnant women in historical costume I am readjusting the way the female body was historically represented. In addition to this, given that the historical narratives within the works are based on claimed true stories, the work is also revealing a history about the chosen subjects not commonly known or (visually) accessible.

About Rowena Hall

Rowena Hall is a emerging photo-media artist who has worked in the Arts for almost 20 years. In addition to her experience in the performing arts, she has worked as the Workshop Manager at the Australian Centre of Photography, participated on the Board of Directors for First Draft Gallery before spending nearly 6 years with the Australian Film, Television and Radio School in Sydney. This involved working within the Cinematography, Research, Digital Media and Foundation Diploma departments of the AFTRS. In 2010 she completed her Masters of Visual Arts in Photo-media at and graduated with her MVA from Sydney of University in 2011.

Rowena’s visual life began when receiving a second-hand Nikon FG20 SLR camera as a thank you for voluntary work on a low budget Tasmanian feature film in 1992. It was the beginning of a journey into ‘seeing’ where, teaching herself how to use the camera, she photographed her local and international experiences whilst working in the performing arts over a five-year period. The photographic work resulted in an invitation to attend the Tasmanian School of Art in 1996 to study photography and art. In 1998 Rowena transferred back home and completed her BVA degree at Sydney College of the Arts in 1999.

The work experience Rowena has gained, including stage management, set building, lighting, and film stills combined with her art practice has resulted in her producing a new body of photographic work reminiscent of tableaux vivant and cinematic stills. This current work, History Bearing is a conceptual continuation of her work in photographing pregnant women which she has practiced for many years. Rowena is dedicated to human rights, particularly women and girls, where much work to create safety and equality is still very much ongoing globally.