FAIRMONT — Rachel Ellis wants to change the patriarchal nature of how history is taught in schools, but she needs help.
Ellis has worn many hats in her career. She’s been an English teacher, a journalist and worked in higher education. Now, she wants to don the hats and garb of women from throughout history to share their importance with students and adults of all ages.
Ellis is putting together a series of presentations where she will dress as famous women in history, visit classrooms or gatherings and teach her audience about the people she’s portraying.
“Don’t let any almost-30-year-old tell you that they don’t enjoy dress up, because we do,” said Ellis, who is 28-years-old.
Her plan came to a head when she was speaking to a friend who is an English teacher for Marion County Schools.
“I told her I’d love to come in some time and talk to her students dressed as Louisa May Alcott or one of these women authors and I asked when do they study them,” Ellis said. “She told me, ‘We don’t really study women authors.’”
Now, Ellis is raising money to start her program, History in Skirts. Where schools can pay to have her come and teach their students about the different women she can portray.
Currently, she plans to offer appearances as 12 different women including Anne Hutchinson, Sarah Edwards, Dolly Madison, Jane Austen, Sarah Josepha Hale, Florence Nightingale, Louisa May Alcott, Nellie Bly, Beatrix Potter, Pearl Buck, Rosalind Franklin and Flannery O’Connor.
Right now, the cost of the presentations will be $5 per child, but Ellis hopes, that in a year, the project will be developed as a nonprofit.
“I’m currently working on the nonprofit status because my goal is to make it completely free for all students in West Virginia to meet these characters,” Ellis said.
To get the project off the ground, Ellis is running a campaign through Kickstarter.com this month looking to raise $3,000 to finish her costuming, establish a marketing budget and provide travel expenses to get to the schools.
“My hope is to reach, not just Fairmont and Morgantown, where we do have historical opportunities around us, but schools that are in the more rural areas where it’s not a five-minute drive to Prickett’s Fort,” Ellis said.
History in Skirts will offer several forms of presentations, each catering to a different age group and learning level. The options are between a one hour meet and greet for ages three to nine, an author presentation for ages 10 to adult and a character presentation for ages 10 to adult.
Each of these will involve Ellis acting and portraying the character chosen and doing various activities based on the presentation chosen.
Ellis is hoping for the official launch date of History in Skirts to be August 1.
“I’m hoping that people really jump on board and make it their own and help me to teach that history wore skirts,” Ellis said.
If interested in finding out more about History in Skirts or to financially back Ellis and her program, go to her Kickstarter at www.kck.st/3uvDSzG. The Kickstarter will be open until June 27. Questions about the program can be sent to [email protected]