Engendering the past

Engendering the past is one of those post-modern archaeology terms that deals with (among other things) associating gender with particular artifacts or activity areas. For example, hunting camps are typically associated with males.

It’s a giant can of worms, and both troglodytes and hippy shit-heads use it in obnoxious ways. It never really came up in my own work, but a recent project has me thinking.

I began doing historic background research for a project I’m starting up at work. I’ll be surveying a small road right-of-way in Rockville, Maryland.

Rockville was a small town that grew up on trade road build from Frederick in central MD, to the Potomac port of Georgetown, just outside of DC.

In 1755 Rockville was just a little cross-roads tavern. In fact, General Bradock and his troops set up camp at the tavern on their way to the front during the French and Indian War.

The town grew over the years, became the Montgomery County seat, and is a decent sized semi-suburb of DC today.

Anyhow, when searching through historic plat maps of the project area, I noticed that much of it was farmland belonging to a B.R. Codwise during the second half of the 19th century.

Today I discovered that the B in B.R. Codwise stands for Beverly. And Beverly Codwise invented the lever style wagon-brake in 1863.

At first I was all impressed that a woman was a landowner and inventor in 19th century southern (lets face it, antebellum Maryland was southern) American society.

So cool, huh? A historical anomaly of sorts. But now I’m beginning to wonder. None of the documents I have seen regarding B.R. Codwise use pronouns.

Isn’t Beverly also a man’s name? I’m picturing some dippy British Lord. And for some reason the show Mr. Belvedere keeps coming to mind.

Maybe I’m wrong. I hope it’s a broad! 😀


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