Female Fifers of the Past

When thinking about a possible project for this class, I immediately thought about studying the Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drum Corps.  As a fifer myself, I have long been interested in ‘the corps down the road,’ as I grew up in the Fifes and Drums of York Town.  Although my corps is a volunteer organization and the Colonial Williamsburg musicians are paid employees of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, we do hold some uniform styles and musical selections in common.  The corps, founded in 1958 as a representation of the Field Music of the Virginia State Garrison Regiment, has educated and entertained generations of visitors to Colonial Williamsburg, the world’s largest outdoor living history museum.  According to the corps website (http://www.history.org/history/fife&drum/about.cfm), the corps represents “what is best about [the] community, [its] history, and [the] museum.”

When I brought up the idea of studying the Colonial Williamsburg corps in a meeting with Professor Knight and Sarah, they suggested that I might instead focus on the American Eagle Fife and Drum Corps.  I do not know much at all about the corps and have not been able to find any mention of it on the internet, but from what I understand it was an all-female junior corps (traditionally a corps consisting of members 18 and younger) in the Williamsburg area that existed in the seventies, and perhaps during earlier and/or later decades.  However, I did come across what is reported to be the only remaining female senior fife and drum corps in the country, the Totoket Ancient Fife & Drum Corps of Connecticut.  I find it interesting that such a corps existed locally, and that an all-female corps still exists to this day.

Since I have to find a website or any information on the American Eagle corps online, it seems like a perfect organization to document.  However, I am a little worried about some of the issues that such work could bring to the surface.  As far as I know, the corps was formed as a female counterpart to the all-male Colonial Williamsburg corps, which began admitting girls in 1999.  I still think that the all-female corps is worth documenting, and so I plan to just let my informants speak for themselves and discuss controversial issues whenever they see fit.  I may also be able to use past issues of the Virginia Gazette to collect more information on the corps.  I am hoping to use the fife and drum corps 50th anniversary book and video produced by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for its corps as a model for my work to answer questions such as: What is the history of the American Eagle corps?  How did the girls in the corps view their role in the greater fife and drum culture?

1 Response to “Female Fifers of the Past”

  1. 1 Sallie Hutcheson February 22, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    I was a member of the American Eagle Girls Fife and Drum Corps in the mid 1970’s and would be happy to share information with you regarding the corps. Please feel free to email me at salhutch@msn.com.

    Sallie Hutcheson

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The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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