Stately Oaks remembering the past

By Trina Trice

In the 19th century, mourning the loss of a loved one could almost be considered an art.

Historical Jonesboro is using the perfect canvas on which to express that art. The Jonesboro preservation group is explaining the delicate, yet rigid ritual of Victorian Mourning at the Stately Oaks Plantation in Jonesboro during the month of August.

Brenda Jenkins is the staff Docent for Historical Jonesboro.

"It was quite different than how we mourn today," she said. "When Queen Victoria went into mourning for the death of her husband Prince Albert," she reintroduced the practice of "mourning well."

"You could only do it if you were upper or middle class," Jenkins said. "It was expensive to do. Women basically went into exclusion."

The procedure was very precise. The time a person mourned depended on the relationship one had with the deceased.

Mourning a child would last nine months; a parent, one year; a husband, two and half years; a wife, three months.

The door of house would be draped in black, as would the mirrors inside of the home.

Women had to wear all black, covered with crepe fabric. The crepe was usually covered in a residue to keep the color dull. The residue was oftentimes toxic, causing an unpleasant odor and irritating all who came into contact with it.

No jewelry or flashy accessories could be worn. In the first nine months of the second year of mourning, women were allowed to gradually discontinue wearing crepe.

In the last three months, women could add color to their ensembles, such as purple, gray, mauve, and lavender.

"It's a whole other world," said Donica Awender who saw the tour Friday. "It's pretty rigid. I would have to been very in love with my husband to go through all of that."

Jenkins agrees with Awender that Victorian Mourning was a bit extreme.

"I don't think we need to be that rigid," Jenkins said. "But I do think we need to take more time and maybe add a few more traditions."

Awender saw advantages, though, in the ritual of mourning, mostly she valued allowing one time to grieve.

"I like putting something black on the your door," she said. "Having some symbols in your home is kind of neat. A mourning period is a good thing. My sister died not too long ago, but her husband already has someone new. She hasn't even been gone that long."