Tarleton Symposium speaker discusses ‘hidden’ female Civil War soldiers

Tarleton Speaker Symposium Series Presents

Tarleton Speaker Symposium Series Presents

Friday, October 28, 2016

STEPHENVILLE, Texas—Tarleton State University’s Speaker Symposium Series continues Monday, Nov. 7, when artist Margaret Meehan discusses her Artspace San Antonio exhibition, Decoration Day, an originally commissioned exhibit focused on the hidden stories of female soldiers during the American Civil War.

Meehan’s talk is free and open to the public and takes place at 5:30 p.m. in Room 108 of the Nursing Building on the Stephenville campus.

The lecture will feature a mixture of the sculpture, photography and sound, as well as the research that went into the making of the exhibition, a showcase originally commissioned and produced by Artspace San Antonio.

According to Meehan, it is a little known fact that between 400 and 1,000 women disguised themselves as men and fought for both sides of the Civil War. Some were discovered and sent home, and some stayed on the battlefield and worked as nurses. Others fought as men with distinction and came out as women only when safely living again at home.

Many were killed and buried before the discovery of their gender. Like Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, also known as Pvt. Lyons Wakeman, whose gender was revealed only after they died on the battlefield.

Meehan’s intention with this artistic body of work is to highlight the legacy these forgotten and invisible women and to compare their stories with those of contemporary queer and female American soldiers. She connects the stories of 19th century soldiers who passed as men in order to fight at all and contemporary women who are now allowed to become soldiers but still have to endure a number of roadblocks because of social restrictions.

This exhibition also focuses on recent official policies of secrecy like “Don’t ask. Don’t tell” in the context of larger patterns in the U.S. military that extend the debates in society at large with regard to gender and sexuality, revealing the difficulties that LGBTQ soldiers and their families still face.

Meehan always has been interested in the body. Not necessarily in the way it works, but more in how it has been perceived throughout history. She is curious about the intersections of teratology and history that give basis to an anxiety about the body and the act of living. Her work focuses on women and individuals who have been depicted as monsters,drawing from film, music and popular culture, but also family folklore. Pulling from the past as well as the present, her work is predicated on the treatment of others, visually referencing patterns of behavior in multiple parts of society at multiple times.

Awards and residencies include the Nasher Sculpture Center Microgrant (2015), Artpace, San Antonio (2014), The Lighthouse Works Fellowship, Fishers Island, N.Y. (2013), Bemis Center, Omaha, Neb. (2009), the Dozier Travel Grant, Dallas Museum of Art (2008). She has shown at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, The Dallas Museum of Art, Soil Gallery in Seattle, Flowers Gallery in London, David Shelton Gallery in Houston, and Conduit Gallery in Dallas, among others.

For more information about the Speaker Symposium Lecture Series and upcoming presenters, visit www.tarleton.edu/speakersymposium.

Tarleton, a member of The Texas A&M University System, provides a student-focused, value-driven educational experience marked by academic innovation and exemplary service, and dedicated to transforming students into tomorrow’s professional leaders. With campuses in Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Midlothian and online, Tarleton engages with its communities to provide real-world learning experiences and to address societal needs while maintaining its core values of integrity, leadership, tradition, civility, excellence and service.


Contact: Dr. Marcy Tanter, Chair – Speaker Symposium Committee
[email protected]

A founding member of The Texas A&M University System, Tarleton is breaking records — in enrollment, research, scholarship, athletics, philanthropy and engagement — while transforming the lives of more than 15,000 students in Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Midlothian, A&M RELLIS at Bryan and online. True to Tarleton’s values of excellence, integrity, and respect, academic programs emphasize real world learning and address regional, state and national needs.