Virginia Women in History - Southwest Virginia Region
A driving tour showcasing the Library of Virginia's Virginia Women in History honorees from the Southwest Virginia region.
The granddaughter of an illegally enslaved Indian woman, Rachel Findlay successfully sued for her freedom in the Wythe County Court and ensured the freedom of many of her descendants. The current Wythe County court house was built in 1902, eighty-nine years after her suit.
A graduate of Rural Retreat High School, Doris Crouse-Mays is dedicated to improving the lives of workers in the state as a labor leader and the first woman to direct the Virginia AFL-CIO.
As founder of Rosemont Industries (headquartered at her home in Marion) and as a Lutheran lay leader, Laura Lu Scherer Copenhaver advocated strategies for improving educational and economic opportunities in southwestern Virginia. Her home on Main Street was later demolished for a fire station.
Setting a charitable example, Elizabeth Henry Campbell Russell fostered the fledgling Methodist Church in southwestern Virginia as a devoted adherent and through material and compassionate support of the church. Madam Russell United Methodist Church in Saltville was named for her and a replica of her cabin is at the site.
Acclaimed novelist and writer Barbara Kingsolver addresses issues of social justice, the environment, and human rights through her fiction and nonfiction, and helped create the Harvest Table Restaurant after the publication of her best-selling work Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (2007).
Ballad singer and songwriter Kate Peters Sturgill taught handcrafts, music, and dance at the Country Cabin, built near Norton by the WPA in 1937, and later preserved the music of her Appalachian region through her recordings and collection of folk songs. Country Cabin II carried on that tradition.
Born in the small Southwest Virginia town of Nickelsville in 1909, Maybelle Addington Carter grew up surrounded by traditional Appalachian folk music and learned to play the banjo, autoharp, and guitar. After marrying Ezra Carter in 1926, Maybelle formed a trio with her brother-in-law A.P. Carter and sister-in-law and first cousin Sara Carter called the Carter Family. One year later, the Carter Family was discovered in Bristol, TN when the group recorded its first record. The Carters shot to fame with their traditional "hillbilly music" and became known as the first country music stars. Maybelle later formed a group called Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters with her daughters Anita, Helen, and Valerie June (most famously known as June Carter Cash). Mother Maybelle Carter, as she became known during the height of her success, was a pioneering guitarist and a highly influential figure in the development of country music.
One of the earliest women to win election to Virginia's House of Delegates, Vinnie Caldwell also helped her family operate the Bluemont Hotel (no longer standing) on the northwest corner of Main and Center Streets, in Galax.
Successful midwife Orleana Hawks Puckett lived in a two-story log cabin on Groundhog Mountain, but was forced to move in 1939 for construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The cabin at milepost 189.9, which had also been located on her property, has been erroneously interepreted as her home.
Mary Sue Terry became the first woman elected to statewide office in Virginia when she was elected attorney general in 1985. She grew up on her family's farm in the Patrick County community of Critz, where she continues to reside.