Belton, Texas – The Bell County Historical Commission will dedicate a Texas Historical Marker for the Belton Woman's Commonwealth (Sanctified Sisters) at 400 N. Pearl in Belton on Saturday, October 16 at 2:00 p.m.
University of Mary Hardin-Baylor professor Dr. Diane Howard will reprise her autobiographical performance of Martha McWirter, leader of the Sanctified Sisters of Belton, in the Bell County Museum immediately following the dedication. Professor Howard first performed this story at the McWirter House in 1999.
The Sanctified Sisters have the distinction of having had the only successful commune in American history. In the 19th c., this religious group began at the McWirter home on Pearl St., developed into a safe sanctuary for women who were being mistreated, and then evolved into a female commune that existed for one hundred years.
Professor Howard has conducted research on autobiographical storytelling for over 20 years. During this time, she has been regionally, nationally, and internationally performing the stories of historic women. From American history, she has given her original performances based on autobiographical writings of Martha Washington, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Susan B. Anthony. From regional Texas history, she has performed the autobiographical stories from primary sources of Martha McWirter, Eli Moore Townsend, Frances Trask, and Janie James.
Howard has taught at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor for more than 20 years. She has been the Director of Performance Studies in the Dept. of Communication and Media Studies. She has been an international leader, presenter and writer in the field of autobiographical writing and speech performing. McGraw-Hill has published and reprinted her book, Autobiographical Writing and Performing.