This Millennial’s Alter Ego is a Forgotten Female Surgeon From World War I
By Rachel Veroff
on the Narratively.com web site via the getpocket.com web site
On a sunny morning last September in the grassy hills of Governors Island, New York City, 27-year-old Lillian Fehler woke to the bright, warbling call of a military bugle. She sat up inside her camping tent (an authentic green cloth tent that soldiers actually used during World War I), and laced up her boots. The boots were authentic, too — impeccably restored to mint marching condition by Fehler herself, who studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Next, she brushed her striking red hair into a bun, snapped up the highest button on her stiff collar, and ducked out into the light of day, where she was greeted with a historically accurate breakfast, prepared on historically accurate cookware.
The event was Camp Doughboy — a three-day campout for living historians that also welcomed more than 3,000 curious visitors into its midst each day. Even the location had historical resonance: Governors Island (a 15-minute ferry ride from the lower tip of Manhattan) served as an active military base during WWI. Today, the site is cared for by the Trust for Governors Island, and Camp Doughboy is the result of a collaboration between this trust, the National Parks Service, and the WWI Centennial Commission — which was created by Congress in 2013 to “honor, commemorate and educate.” Thirty or so dedicated historical reenactors like Fehler were in attendance, and they had brought an astonishing array of items from their personal museum collections (rusty bicycles! bayonets! binoculars!) to show off to each other over the weekend. Since its start in 2016, Camp Doughboy has grown to be one of the largest historical gatherings in New York City.
“Where did you get this uniform?” a curious woman asked Fehler, while testing the fabric of Fehler’s sleeve between her fingers.
“Hoo boy,” Fehler smiled impishly before launching into a scarily precise explanation. She had stitched her WWI uniform herself using a 1916 dressmaker’s diagram as a guide, and she’d raided antique fairs and obscure corners of the internet to find the original hat and leather belts. She also had a lot of critiques to share about various vendors of rare dyes and chemicals, stemming from her rigorous training as a textile conservationist and theatrical costumer. The results of Fehler’s intense nerdery and hours of labor showed: She was quite arguably the most photogenic living historian to show up at Camp Doughboy. Not only was she a singularly pretty model for her own clothes, but she also stood out for being one of the youngest participants — and one of the only women.
Read the entire article on the Get Pocket web site here:
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