Published December 18, 2017

Earlier this month ground was broken in Richmond’s Capitol Square for a new monument honoring the contributions of women in Virginia. The monument will feature bronze statues of twelve women, nine of whom you can read about in our Encyclopedia Virginia.

  • Anne Burras Laydon (ca. 1594–ca. 1636) and her mistress were the first two English women to arrive in the Virginia colony. She married John Laydon in 1608, had four daughters, and survived the Starving Time.
  • Cockacoeske (d. by July 1, 1686), a descendent of Opechancanough, ruled the Pamunkey Indians and, in 1677, signed the Treaty of Middle Plantation. It reunited under her authority several tribes that had not been under Powhatan domination since 1646.
  • Martha Custis Washington (1731–1802) married George Washington in 1759, bringing two small children and an estate worth about £30,000, including about 20,000 acres in six counties. Her wealth and personal support helped make many of her husband’s remarkable accomplishments possible.
  • Clementina Rind (d. 1774) succeeded her husband as the Virginia colony’s public printer from 1773 until her death a year later. She also published the Virginia Gazette newspaper and Thomas Jefferson’s tract A Summary View of the Rights of British America (1774).
  • Sally Louisa Tompkins (1833–1916) ran a small hospital at Third and Main streets in Richmond during the Civil War and was commissioned a captain in the Confederate army. After her death in 1916, some remembered her as an unreconstructed Confederate, causing some critics to voice concern about her inclusion in the monument.
  • Maggie Lena Walker (1864–1934) was the first woman, white or black, to establish and lead a bank in the United States, the Saint Luke Penny Savings Bank, founded in 1902. The Richmond native and daughter of slaves also started a newspaper and department store.
  • Sarah Garland Boyd Jones (1866–1905) became the first African American woman to pass the Virginia Medical Examining Board’s examination in 1893. She and her husband operated their own small hospital in Richmond.
  • Virginia Estelle Randolph (1875–1958), the daughter of former slaves, Virginia Estelle Randolph, in Henrico County, and developed a method reliant on practicality, creativity, and parental involvement that became known across the South as the Henrico Plan.
  • Adèle Clark (1882–1983) helped found the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia in 1909 and, after ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, served as the chair of the Virginia League of Women Voters. She also was an accomplished painter.

Three other women are included in the monument, and the encyclopedia will eventually feature entries on them, too. Mary Draper Ingles (1732–1815) was famous for being taken captive by Shawnee Indians during the French and Indian War, escaping, and traveling 600 miles back home. Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1818–1907) was born enslaved, worked as a seamstress for Mary Todd Lincoln during the Civil War, and later wrote an autobiography. Finally, Laura Lu Copenhaver (1868–1940) served as director of information for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and emphasized the cooperative marketing of farm products. One of her poems, “Heralds of Christ,” became a well-known Lutheran hymn.

Since its founding in 1974, VFH has been committed to preserving and sharing Virginia’s under-told and under-heard stories, especially those of African Americans, Virginia Indians, new immigrants, and women. We look forward to the completion of this monument in Richmond’s Capitol Square. For now you can watch a video of the proposed monument courtesy of the Virginia Women’s Monument Commission.

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