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Tag Archives: women

- “Legislative Debutantes”: 95 Years of Women in Virginia’s House of Delegates

In 2018 a record number of women took their seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates, bringing the total number of women who have served in that body to 91. The women who inaugurated this small (but growing) group were elected 95 years ago, on 6 November 1923. On that day, Helen Moore Timmons Henderson of Buchanan County and Sarah Lee Oden’hal Fain of Norfolk became the first women to win election to the General Assembly. Women in Virginia had gained the right to vote and run for office three years earlier, when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in August 1920. Tens of thousands of women registered and voted that fall thanks to special legislation the assembly had passed in January 1920.

 

Virginia women were quick to jump into politics as candidates for office. In 1921 at least six women entered races for the House of Delegates. Two lost in Democratic Party primaries. Election statements in the Secretary of the Commonwealth records (available for research at the Library with a finding aid in the Manuscripts Room) show that four other women were defeated in the general election. Three women also ran for statewide office that year and lost: Maggie Lena Walker was the candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction on the “lily black” Republican ticket, Elizabeth Lewis Otey was the candidate for the … read more »

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- Women with Dirty Hands: Archival Apprentices in the State Archives

The following post was adapted from an article in the January/February 2006 Library of Virginia newsletter and additional research on the topic by Jennifer Davis McDaid.

 


Office of the State Archivist, Miscellaneous Records Regarding County Court Houses, Records, and Clerks of Court, Accession 35002, The Library of Virginia.

Today is Administrative Professionals Day, and anyone who works in an office setting knows the critical role that administrative personnel play on a day-to-day basis. Were it not for them, a great deal of progress would come to a screeching halt. In that spirit, we look back at another group of assistants who were responsible for considerable advancement at the Virginia State Library (now the Library of Virginia).

Morgan P. Robinson, an organized and fastidious man, became Virginia’s first state archivist in 1918. Shortly after becoming the chief of the Archives Department in 1915, Robinson launched an innovative collaboration with Westhampton College (a women’s liberal arts undergraduate institution that merged with Richmond College in 1920 to become the University of Richmond). Juniors and seniors studying American history could work as archival apprentices at the Virginia State Library. The archives desperately needed the help and the students benefited from the practical experience.

The assistants served without pay, but earned history credit for their two hours a week. Beginning with just two students in 1916, the program had 12 enrolled in 1917-1918, and 21 by 1920. Mr. Robinson insisted on two rules: the women had to wear “a full … read more »

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- “Our share in the war is no small one”: Virginia Women and World War I, Part II

This is the second of a two-part blog post adapted from an article originally written for the Summer 2001 issue of Virginia Cavalcade.


Liberty Day opening U.S. Gov't Bag Loading Plant : Seven Pines, October 12, 1918 / Frederic H. Spigel.

While nurses and female yeomen filled military roles, civilian women’s organizations of all kinds worked on the home front. In fact, such groups composed three-fourths of the wartime organizations in Virginia. The state Equal Suffrage League temporarily suspended agitation for women’s voting rights and joined with dozens of other organizations, including the Virginia Association Opposed to Women Suffrage, to support the war effort. For instance, both groups supported the Khaki and Blue Kitchen, at 210 East Grace Street in Richmond, which provided meals for servicemen visiting the city. Richmond’s suffragists (including Adele Clark, Nora Houston, and Eudora Ramsay Richardson) transformed the Equal Suffrage League headquarters and worked tirelessly for the suffrage auxiliary of the Red Cross. “We have a sewing machine,” one member reported, “and [a] pleasant work-room.” The auxiliary also purchased a knitting machine and pledged to provide mittens for the hundred nurses assigned to U.S. Base Hospital No. 45. By November 1917, the women already had produced 1,244 garments, including bedshirts, bathrobes, pajamas, pillowcases, sheets, and towels, and had knitted sweaters, mufflers, mittens, and socks. In Roanoke, the Equal Suffrage League joined with twenty local women’s groups to encourage the cultivation of home gardens. As a result, agricultural production … read more »

- “Our share in the war is no small one”: Virginia Women and World War I, Part I

This is the latest entry in a series of blog posts spotlighting stories and records of Virginia’s involvement in World War I. It is the first of a two-part blog post adapted from an article originally written for the Summer 2001 issue of Virginia Cavalcade. The second half will run next week.


Group of nurses at Base Hospital 45

As soon as the United States entered the war on 6 April 1917, Virginia women sprang into action at home and abroad. Some women worked in traditional ways, knitting socks for soldiers in their social clubs and conserving food at home. Others were employed in industry, laboring on assembly lines to put together shells and airplane motors and to apply camouflage paint. They were “the girls behind the men behind the guns,” noted the Ladies’ Home Journal. Other women faced the guns themselves, enlisting in the military to fill clerical roles and serve as nurses. They treated patients, took dictation, fried doughnuts, drove ambulances, and operated switchboards.

 

The need for military nurses was pressing. The federal government ran full-page advertisements in the Ladies’ Home Journal, calling on women between the ages of nineteen and thirty-five to enroll in the U.S. Student Nurse Reserve. When slots opened up, applicants attended one of the 1,579 training schools in the nation. Schools waived most expenses, including tuition … read more »

- Court Records Preservation Pioneers: Martha Woodroof Hiden


Portrait of Martha Hiden, Courtesy of Newport News Public Library.

The naming of the local history and genealogy reading room at Newport News Public Library after Martha Woodroof Hiden is well deserved. Born in Orange County, Virginia, in 1883, Hiden graduated from Randolph-Macon College and went on to graduate school at the University of Chicago and The College of William & Mary. In 1909 she married Philip W. Hiden, who became the first mayor of Newport News, the city where she spent the rest of her life. She ran her husband’s business after his death in 1936, and went on to serve as a member of the board of visitors at William & Mary, an executive at the Virginia Historical Society, and a board member of the Virginia State Library (now the Library of Virginia). An accomplished and scholarly researcher, she authored numerous reviews, articles, and books on Virginia history and genealogy.

With all those accomplishments, however, her work with Virginia city and county court records might be her most important achievement. More than most, she understood the historical significance of the records and their need to be preserved. Among her writing on Virginia history, she published essays on court records, outlining the importance of each of the “classes” or record groups, explaining their use and purpose as few had done before, and laying the groundwork for social historians of the future. In her aptly … read more »

- The Old Ball and Chain

In the colonial period, married Virginians had very few legal grounds for divorce. Over the years, though, standards loosened up a bit, and eventually the old justifications of adultery and impotency were joined by reasons such as abandonment, cruelty, or being a fugitive from justice. In 1873, a new justification was added to the list: if either party was sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary. One of least common reasons for divorce, this kind of suit does pop up in chancery from time to time when the spouses of criminal Virginians took advantage of the law to get rid of the old ball-and-chain.

W. H. Bonaparte and Emma G. Lee were married in Hampton in 1888. In January 1889, W. H. was convicted of a felony for transporting a woman named Ruth Tennelle into Hampton for the purpose of concubinage and was sentenced to five years in the penitentiary. Emma filed for divorce in February 1891 and her petition was granted one month later. (Elizabeth City County chancery cause 1891-007 Emma Bonaparte by etc vs. W. H. Bonaparte)

In 1898, Rosalie Mayo and Daniel N. Huffer were united in matrimony. In 1901 Rosalie filed for divorce while pregnant with her second child, stating that her husband had recently been sentenced to one year in the penitentiary for a terrible assault on their little … read more »

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- A Modern Day Soap Opera in the 19th Century




Some things in life never change.  Seasons, hunger, sleep, and calamity are constants which prove that the world repeats itself. Relationships are no different. For centuries, married couples have promised to remain faithful while one or both secretly desire the affections of another. In the 19th century, the marriage of Mary and William Cox served as an example of infidelity not unlike a modern-day soap opera.

An 1873 bill to the court indicates that the marriage of Mary and William Cox was in distress because of an adulterous lifestyle. Despite three years of marital bliss, Mary accused William of being unfaithful with several women because he no longer wanted to provide for his family. Mary’s accusation also implied that William molested her and the children, abandoned them, and later forced her to rent a place to stay. To satisfy her expenses, Mary works for the landlord before deciding to ask the courts to require William to answer for his actions.

Two court depositions are documented. The first, from George W. Clark, responded to the question of whether he was aware of William Cox’s unfaithfulness. Clark confirmed that he had known the couple since their marriage and that, as a practicing physician, he had discovered that Mary Cox contracted gonorrhea from her husband. Clark even testified that he actually heard William say that he had … read more »

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- If The Dead Could Talk: A Patrick County Estate Dispute


Nineteenth century seance. www.weirdlectures.com

In 1999, the horror film The Sixth Sense introduced the iconic phrase, “I see dead people,” into pop culture. The film followed the progression from a young boy’s ability to see the deceased to also hearing what they had to say. In the first decade of the 20th century, this unusual talent would have helped resolve a dispute over the last will and testament of a wealthy estate owner.

In 1906, the estate of Richard R. Rakes was the center of attention for two sets of heirs. The first were the children of Rakes’ first wife, Sarah D. Turner, who passed away several years before. To their dismay, Rakes did not leave them an inheritance because he believed they were already well cared for before his demise. The second set of heirs, however, received a much better report.

The surviving widow, Mary Rakes, and her children were the sole beneficiaries of the estate, which included several hundred acres of property, horses, county bonds, evidence of debts, and other assets worth thousands of dollars. The desires of Richard Rakes seemed fairly straight-forward, if it were not for the betrayal of C. P. Nolen—the executor of the estate.

Nolen decided to partner with the children from Rakes’ first marriage to fool the widow Mary into thinking that a different plan existed. Their efforts were successful and resulted … read more »

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- The Long Wait for Freedom: A Montgomery County Freedom Suit

This is part two of a two part post on a fascinating freedom suit discovered during the Montgomery County Circuit Court Records Project. Part one of the story was published last week.


Wanted ad, 6 August 1842, Connecticut Courant, p. 6.

Flora continued to live with the Charltons, eventually moving to the Seven Mile Tree home built by James Charlton. While there is no further evidence that Flora was able to pursue a freedom suit prior to her death, her narrative served as the basis for suits filed by her daughters and their children. James Charlton’s death in 1825 probably served as the trigger for this series of chancery suits, as Cena and Unis contemplated the possibility that their own families might be broken up and sold away. An 1825 appraisement of James Charlton’s estate indicates that he claimed twenty-one slaves, at least twelve of whom petitioned for freedom. The size and value of Flora’s family had increased since her 1784 arrival in Virginia; by 1825 they were worth over $3,000 dollars.

The series of freedom suits initiated in 1826 would not be resolved until 1853. Cena and Unis sued for their own freedom and by extension that of their children and grandchildren: Andrew, Reuben, Julius, William, Helen, Mary, Tarlton, Matilda, James, and Flora. All of these individuals were designated paupers and represented by counsel. In addition to claiming that their Flora had … read more »

- Flora’s Plight: A Montgomery County Freedom Suit

This is part one of a two part post on a fascinating freedom suit discovered during the Montgomery County Circuit Court Records Project. Part two of the story will be published next week.


Slave Sale At Christiansburg (Va) by Lewis Miller.

Women had more to lose in the system of slavery. Saying this is not in any way meant to downplay the pernicious effects of slavery on the lives of men. However, at least in the slave system of the U.S. South, women ensnared within slavery saw their children and, if they lived long enough, their grandchildren caught in a chain of matrilineal descent predicated on the bondage status of the mother. Conversely, if one could prove that a woman was unjustly or illegally forced into slavery, she and her descendants had much to gain. The story of Flora and her daughters, Cena and Unis, makes public the double bind experienced by female slaves in the antebellum South. Their story also reveals the ongoing claims to freedom made by Flora and her family over sixty years, across three states, and throughout multiple counties in Virginia.

Flora, an African American later held as a slave in Montgomery County, Virginia, was born in the late 1750s in either Massachusetts or Connecticut. In the late 1770s Flora married “Exeter, a Negro man of Southwick” [MA], a marriage recorded by Reverend John Theodore Graham on 26 … read more »