Yesterday ground was broken for a monument in Richmond, on the grounds of the State Capitol, honoring women from throughout the Commonwealth who have contributed throughout history to our nation and Virginia. It will be the first of its kind on the grounds of a State Capitol in the United States. I am encouraged and thankful for the recognition women will be given for their part in our history. After all, we are one half of the population and have contributed greatly and continue to contribute. The bronze statues will include four African-American women, a Native American, and women from all parts of the Commonwealth. Many of these women lived through the hardships of early colonization. They will be recognized for their contributions in medicine, publishing, voting rights for women, business and peacemaking, among countless other social impacts. The new monument, entitled “Voices from the Garden,” will include a glass panel that will be etched with more names of Virginia women, as well as a bench listing milestones of women’s contributions.
The Richmond Free Press shared this information about the lives of the twelve who are bronze statues:
- Cockacoeske (1656-1686), queen (Chief) of the Pamunkey Indians who united tribes, ended the war with the English, and accepted a reservation.
- Ann Burras Laydon (1591-after1625), mother of the first child born in the Jamestown colony.
- Sarah Garland Boyd Jones of Richmond (1866-1905), one of the first women and the first African American woman to be licensed as a physician in the state and the co-founder of a hospital serving African-Americans that ultimately became Richmond Community Hospital.
- Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley of Dinwiddie (1818-1907), a dress designer, who bought her freedom from slavery using her design talent and went on to design for Mary Todd Lincoln. She also organized a relief program for freed slaves and black soldiers during the Civil War.
- Virginia Estelle Randolph of Henrico County (1870-1958), a pioneering educator for African American children, who developed a nationally-recognized approach to vocational learning that involved practicality, creativity and the participation of parents and the community.
- Maggie Lena Walker of Richmond (1864-1934), leader of the independent Order of St. Luke and developer through the mutual aid society of a department store, newspaper, and the first bank in the nation to be chartered by an African American.
- Adele Goodman Clark of Richmond (1882-1983), a leader in the fight for women’s voting rights who went on to head the League of Women Voters and pave the way for the creation of the state-supported Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
- Laura Lu Copenhaver of Smyth County (1868-1940), a businesswoman who out of her home established Rosemont Industries which produced textiles. She also pushed cooperative marketing of farm products to improve farmer’s earnings.
- Mary Draper Ingles of Ingles Ferry (1732-1815), creator of New River ferry service that was a vital transportation link and who earlier escaped form Indian captors and trekked 800 miles to return to Virginia.
- Clementina Bird Rind of Williamsburg (1740-1774), who took over as editor and publisher of the Virginia Gazette after her husband died, enabling the newspaper to remain the colony’s official publisher.
- Sally Louisa Tomkins of Matthews County (1833-1916), founder and operator of a hospital that treated wounded soldiers during the Civil War.
- Martha Dandridge Custis Washington of Fairfax (1731-1802), wife of President George Washington and the nation’s first “First Lady.” She also represents the wives of the seven other Virginia-born presidents.
The monument’s title, “Voices from the Garden,” creates for me an image of millions of women throughout history, speaking truth and showing compassion and a commitment to love and peace. It echoes a fierce dedication to family and community and a compassionate call to justice for all.