Let’s Catch Up, Shall We?

Yes, she lives and she is profoundly sorry for her two-month absence. But, she is back and for some reason talking in the third person.

First things first, thank you so much for your patience while I wrapped up my junior year of college. Starting tomorrow, I’ll be returning to my usual Tuesday/Friday posting schedule but keep an eye out for a bonus Frequent Fascinations on Wednesday. If you aren’t following The Folding Chair on Facebook and you dig cool ladies and obsessive rambles, please go on over and give the page a like and a follow and, in return, I swear to never abandon you for two months ever again. Pinky promise.

So what exactly was I up to? Well, first off, I had a heinous research paper for my British Literary Art of the Nineteenth Century class about the little-known (and therefore frustratingly little-documented) artistic relationship between Charles Dickens and one of his illustrators, Hablôt Knight Browne. After I turned that in, I focused on moving out of my dorm and into my very first apartment, which I am incredibly stoked about.

Most exciting, however, was my research trip the following week to Washington D. C., my favorite city in the world. I had the opportunity to browse a necessary collection at the Library of Congress for the historical nonfiction book I’m working on about a couple of fabulous flying ladies. It was exhilarating but exhausting and despite my good intentions to continue to post throughout the week, I ended up using the modicum of leftover time exploring my favorite old haunts. So your patience allowed me to experience the following highlights of my trip for which I will always be grateful:

Finally seeing Michelle Obama’s portrait at the National Portrait Gallery

Y’all know how much I love Michelle Obama and I had been dying to see her new portrait by Amy Sherald since I ran out of available articles telling me every single detail of its creation. I saw it at the end of a long, tiring day and all of my emotions just broke free when it caught my eye through the entrance to the gallery. I literally started to sob and I inhaled the loudest sniffle of my life which reverberated around the high-vaulted ceilings and echoed embarrassingly throughout the whole museum. It really was incredible though. Highly recommend. Here is my favorite article about the story behind both Michelle’s and Barack’s portraits.

Seeing the dueling pistols from the infamous duel between Hamilton and Burr At the U.S. Postal Museum

In all of my trips to D.C., I had somehow never even heard of the U.S. Postal Museum. However, a couple of days before the trip, I found out that the museum had a temporary exhibit on Alexander Hamilton which included, hold on your hats, THE dueling pistols that were used in the fatal duel between Hamilton and Burr at Weehawken, NJ. Naturally, I had to go and see them. I also took the time to look around the museum and was very impressed at how it managed to bring to life the history behind something that might ordinarily be considered a dull subject. My only critique was about one exhibit called “Postmen of the Skies” that neglected to feature the important role women played in the founding of the first U.S. Air Mail Service. But don’t worry…I left a note on the exit survey.

Finding a Sybil Luddington Stamp

One of the coolest features of the U.S Postal Museum is its gift shop. They had all sorts of random commemorative stamps that you could sift through and buy or add to your collection. Well, here I was just minding my own business, trying to look around for a postcard of the Lafayette commemorative stamp from the Hamilton exhibit, when right before me on a shelf was a Sybil Luddington Commemorative Stamp. Sybil Luddington was the very first woman I wrote about on this site and, not only that, I included a picture of this very stamp in the article. Now, I own my very own first day of issue stamp.

Finally Making it Out to Arlington Cemetery

I had also never been to Arlington Cemetery before and, since it was two metro stops away from our hotel, we decided to check it out. It was immensely moving and powerful to experience the utter vastness of the graves. We visited General Black Jack Pershing’s grave which was just a simple grave marker in a clearing with the most beautiful blue spruce. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a surreal sense of stillness like that before. As we walked from his grave to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (another powerful experience) a funeral procession went by. I can’t even begin to articulate the well of emotions that went through me when the empty horse was led by. The whole time we spent at Arlington is a memory that I will treasure among the most deep and dear.

Seeing “Enthroned Washington” by Horatio Greenough when It wasn’t covered by a tarp

I learned about Greenough’s “Enthroned Washington” in my AP Art History class my senior year of high school. I was fascinated by it because it was created around a time that the nation wasn’t sure what its government should be and therefore, the depiction of its rulers was one of the greatest artistic struggles. Looking back at this togaed, Zeus-like Washington, it’s easy to laugh because we are so comfortable with Gilbert Stuart’s image of Washington and similar styles of succeeding presidents. However, Greenough’s depiction referenced the way rulers had been seen for centuries and to deviate from that was a huge statement. Anyways, the point is I became fascinated by what this statue represented in terms of our country’s history.

Well, the last time I was in D.C., about a month after I had first heard about the statue, I went straight away to the Museum of American History where it was held. However, the wing that it sat outside of was under renovation and so the entire statue, save two toes on the foot, were covered by a tarp to protect it. I was literally standing a foot away from it but couldn’t make it out under the lump of canvas. I was devastated and heartbroken. This time, however, I vowed to see it and saw it I did. It was thoroughly fascinating to take in and, surprisingly, more people took photos in front of it than any other landmark I had seen that week.

Getting to run loose around the National Gallery and eat all the gelato a stomach can handle

No trip to D.C. is complete without a stop at the National Gallery. In fact, that was our very first stop after getting off the plane and we ate huge portions of gelato as our lunch. Hey, we were on vacation, why not? After, we explored the familiar galleries and made sure to check out our favorite works of art before hitting the gift shop for all of the quirky bits and pieces we never knew we needed. If you never have eaten gelato under the walkway between the two wings of the museum, you really, really must. There is a euphoria that comes from the way the light hits the waterfall overhead and the way the the bustle of people moving from wing to wing soothes the mind because there is no need to be in any kind of rush. Underneath that water, time stands perfectly still.

Sadly, I was not able to make it to two of my favorite places, the Newseum and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Museum of African-American Culture was so popular, we could not obtain a timed-pass to explore. But despite being the shortest and most-cramped trip yet, I think it was my favorite and as soon as I got home, I started to scheme about how I might return ASAP.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve been busy organizing all of the great material I got and have been working on putting together some exciting histories and new features for the site. It’s been wonderful to be inspired by these incredible women again and I’m looking forward to extending that on to all of you. Thanks again for your patience and support and I’ll see ya here tomorrow!

We are back in business, baby.

xo Elena

I have been overjoyed at the number of recommendations for extraordinary women that people have been sending my way to feature on the site! If you have a woman in mind, please feel free to email me at thefoldingchairhistory@gmail.com. Also, if you want to geek out with me about any kind of books, films or other awesome representations of women throughout history, I would be delighted to hear about them as well.