Its been two years since my last entry. I must confess, my interest in Frances M.A. Roe waned. How much can one write about an early 19th century one-time authoress and her book beyond verifying people, places and events? With the added caveat of a renowned father-in-law- Rear Admiral Francis Ashbury Roe, and Faye his only son. Searching for Fannie is frequently through newspaper reports about Faye’s military assignments. The starting point in finding a woman’s history is routinely this way. Fannie is the proverbial needle in the haystack of a history recording men’s achievements…
For that reason, reassembling Roe and her lone book of long-forgotten letters, is one more testament to her-story. I would say Fannie had sensed this by recovering her long forgotten letters. There’s her own personal sentimental nostalgia re-reading her time out West; yet, a responsibility to publish the realities of Army life on the frontier 38 years later.
What matters most, the papers left behind or the life she lived?
Military outposts were a far cry from city life. Dirt floors, chinked log quarters, outlier posts, hostile tribes, outlaws, wild animals, insects, floods, crazy weather, illness and death to name a few life-threatening inconveniences. Target practice lessons were mandatory with the expectation to hit the bulls-eye every time. Horse riding lessons military style too and always carrying a pistol in her pocket and rifles on long rides to help defend against real-life dangers and adversities.
Present and past narratives including movies and fiction, frequently create false imagery of fragile corseted women regardless of our understanding women were pioneers too. Revisionist stories are littered with the genteel idealism of a woman’s place in the world; particularly commissioned officer’s wives of the upper crust. Housekeeping wasn’t high on her list knowing they’d be transferred at a moments notice. Back breaking chores required a servant or a hired soldier known as a striker to help out. Inevitably, they too came and went as often as military orders hopscotched the Roes to more than 20 army posts in 17 years.
Army Letters from an Officer’s Wife 1871-1888 should carry its own weight equally to his, yet rarely has.
Cont’d: Historical Side-notes: What’s in a Name? Roe’s marriage record reveals a feisty minister of interest