Elizabeth Ambler Brent Carrington, whose home stood at the southeast corner of Clay and 11th Streets, was concerned about the plight of orphaned girls early in the 19th century and helped establish the Female Humane Association of the City of Richmond at a time when women rarely played a role in public affairs.
The daughter of a prosperous merchant, Elizabeth Jaquelin Ambler Brent
Carrington (March 11, 1765–February 15, 1842) married twice and remained a widow
after 1810. Educated at home by her father, Carrington read widely and
recognized the importance of education for young women. She was an active
Episcopalian and her religious background and interest in education likely
contributed to her enthusiasm in helping establish the Female Humane Association
of the City of Richmond about 1805. She joined other prominent women in drawing
up its constitution and bylaws early in 1808, and in 1810 the association
successfully petitioned the General Assembly for an act of incorporation.
Known for her charitable endeavors and leadership, Carrington served as the
association’s secretary from at least 1810 until 1837. The association
established an orphanage in 1813 and began holding an annual fund-raising fair
in 1828. At a time when women rarely participated in public affairs, Carrington
and the members of the Female Humane Association met an important social need
that Virginia’s government had ignored. The orphanage cared for and educated
destitute white girls and enabled many children to avoid lives of poverty. The
association’s modern successor, the Memorial Foundation for Children, continues
to support educational and cultural programs in the twenty-first century.