Documentary Film, Reenactress, Launches Fundraising Campaign

Share Article

Reenactress, a feature-length documentary about female reenactors and living historians who cross-dress to portray soldiers on the battlefield at Civil War reenactments, has launched a month-long Kickstarter campaign to raise funding to finish production of the movie.

Reenactress, a feature-length documentary about female reenactors and living historians who cross-dress to portray soldiers on the battlefield at Civil War reenactments, has launched a month-long Kickstarter campaign to raise funding to finish production of the movie.

Reenactress tells the story of women who have broken down barriers in order to take the field in battle in the predominantly male hobby of reenacting. These brave women also act as living historians to educate the public and preserve the little-known history of over 400 real women who fought disguised as men during the Civil War.

J.R. Hardman, the film’s director, appears in the movie and narrates the story. She has been reenacting for three years after she first discovered the hobby at a reenactment in Gettysburg. However, she was shocked to find that one Atlanta unit she tried to join did not allow women in their ranks at all.

“I asked the unit commander if I could join up with his group, and he told me that his wife could help me find a nice hoop skirt,” Hardman remembers. “But I wanted to be a soldier, not a Southern belle!”

Being excluded from that unit prompted Hardman to research the history of women in battle and discover that between 400-1000 women are estimated to have actually fought disguised as men in the Civil War on both sides of the conflict, Union and Confederate.

Hardman traveled to North Carolina to interview one of the authors of the predominant research book on the topic of female soldiers in the Civil War, Lauren Cook Wike. The book is called They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War. Having been a reenactor herself, Cook Wike also won a lawsuit against the National Park Service after being kicked out of a battlefield park for dressing as a soldier. The Park Service now has new guidelines that allow women to participate in their events, as long as they follow certain authenticity rules.

Still, social mores, unwelcoming hardcore units, and event organizers discourage women from acting in a military role. One event registration page warns, “If an [...] event volunteer can determine that an individual in the ranks is female from further than 15 feet away, that person will be asked to leave the field.”

Hardman explains her reasons for continuing to reenact in spite of the naysayers. “Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable because I feel like event organizers or other reenactors think women like me shouldn’t participate because cross-dressing is too weird, but then I think about the women who actually died while fighting during the Civil War like Sarah Rosetta Wakeman. Rosetta was buried as a man for over 100 years before her family came forward to tell her story, and I want to make sure that story gets told.”

Reenactress chronicles Hardman’s experiences as an artilleryman, learning to load and fire a cannon, and as an infantryman, becoming skilled with a Civil War-era reproduction rifle. She has also learned how to hide her gender by cutting her hair short, avoiding smiling, and wearing a binding bra under her uniform.

“I’ve been mistaken for a man lots of times,” laughs Hardman. “At an event in southern Georgia, I was asked by a teenage boy if a friend and I were brothers. I just told the boy that we weren’t related. We laughed about it when we got back to camp, but I knew that my impression was successful.”

This July, Hardman and her small team of independent filmmakers are undertaking a different type of fight on the crowdfunding battlefield. They’ve launched a month-long Kickstarter campaign to try to raise $27,009 to finish Reenactress.

“We’ve had lots of interest from other reenactors, history buffs, feminists, and film-lovers,” she says. “We hope that they’ll help us make this documentary happen because we can’t do it without their support!”

You can find more information about the film at http://www.reenactress.com, become a fan at http://www.facebook.com/reenactress follow the movie on Twitter or Instagram at @reenactress, or donate to the Kickstarter campaign at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jrhardman/reenactress-a-feature-documentary

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

J.R. Hardman
Reenactress
+1 (213) 268-4615
Email >
@Reenactress
since: 05/2013
Follow >
Visit website