ON MONDAY, Virginia unveiled a new monument. The “M” word is a red flag for many in a state that sometimes can’t seem to get past the Civil War and the legacy of slavery that led to it.
This one, though, is different. It recognizes often-forgotten worthies among the half of our population that has been grossly under-recognized: Women.
The dozen individuals who are being honored with life-size statues at the Virginia Women’s Monument on the state Capitol grounds in Richmond are not always the best-known women in our state’s past. Martha Washington is there, but Pocahontas, for one, isn’t.
However, the group is representative of women whose lives and deeds have often been overlooked. Some were from the Fredericksburg region:
Dorothy Roy of Caroline County was the only woman in the colonies to own a tobacco warehouse, and the first woman to be granted a license to operate a tavern in Virginia.
In 1829, Mary Berkeley Minor Bradford organized the Fredericksburg chapter of the American Colonization Society, which sought to transport freed slaves back to Africa.
Judith Lomax of Caroline was the first woman in Virginia to publish her own book of poetry, “Notes of an American Lyre” in 1813. It was dedicated to Thomas Jefferson.
After the tragic deaths of her husband and only child, former Virginia First Lady Jean Moncure Wood of Stafford County founded the Female Humane Society in Richmond in 1807, dedicated to providing aid to impoverished women and their children.
Lucy Ann White Cox of Fredericksburg helped to provide soldiers of the 30th Virginia Infantry Regiment with hot food, clean clothes and nursing care during the Civil War.
Daphne Dailey was co-owner and editor of the Caroline Progress newspaper from 1936 to 1947, and was the Virginia Press Association’s first female president.
Other notable Virginia women include: Anne Burras Laydon came across the Atlantic to Jamestown in 1608 as a maidservant and was the bride in Virginia’s first English wedding.
Cockacoeske was leader of the Pamunkey tribe after her husband died in 1656 and ruled them for about 30 years.
Sarah G. Jones was the first African American woman to pass the Virginia Medical Examining Board’s examination.
In 1755, Mary Draper Ingles and her sons were taken captive by Shawnee warriors. She escaped and traveled some 600 miles, some of it alone and by canoe, to return to Virginia, where she reunited with her husband and later gave birth to three daughters and another son.
Elizabeth Keckly, born a slave, was freed and became Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker and confidante. She established a relief fund to aid black refugees. She later wrote a memoir in an effort to raise money for the indebted and widowed Mrs. Lincoln.
Clementina Rind was Virginia’s first woman printer and was publisher of the Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg just before the American Revolution.
Adèle Clark, an accomplished artist, was instrumental in establishing the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia in 1909 and helped lead the fight for ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Seven statues were dedicated Monday, with the rest to come later. Upon completion, the monument also will feature a Wall of Honor memorializing 230 Virginia women.
There is much talk lately about providing context in reference to some of our state’s monuments. It could be argued that, in recognizing a few of the strong women who helped shape Virginia, the state is giving a bit of context to its history by moving beyond former presidents and Civil War leaders.
It is a step in the right direction.