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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

All this month we’re bringing you stories from North Carolina women’s history. Check back here each week day for a new tidbit on the women of our state’s past.

Clubwomen played an important role in shaping North Carolina life during the 20th century. Their influence extended to the ballot box, the workplace, public health, library development, the arts, conservation and literacy.

The North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs, as the “oldest, largest, charitable, non-denominational, nonpartisan service organization of volunteer women in North Carolina” was organized on May 26, 1902, on the campus of Salem Academy. The charter called for the promotion of education and for civic, cultural and social activities that would better the state. The original departments of work were education, library extension, village improvement and state charities.

Gertrude Weil recalled the meeting: “Women were not so accustomed in those days to leave their homes to attend meetings, and still less to leave their home-towns. Having no husband nor children to neglect by my absence, I was free to go . . . We arrived in Winston—by rail of course—at night . . .Our respective hostesses met us and whisked us off—in surries. . . That was the first annual meeting of what has become the biggest, strongest organization of women in the State.”

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Dolley Madison

All this month we’re bringing you stories from North Carolina women’s history. Check back here each week day for a new tidbit on the women of our state’s past.

In an era when male soldiers and politicians usually dominated, Dolley Madison, First Lady of the United States and Washington socialite, exemplified the dutiful wife and tactful hostess who achieved with charm what her husband accomplished with command. Born Dolley Payne in 1768 in Guilford County, her family moved to Virginia and later to Philadelphia.

Widowed young Madison met senator and future president James Madison through mutual acquaintance Aaron Burr in 1794. The couple married less than a year later. While Madison served as Secretary of State for the widowed Thomas Jefferson, Dolley Madison became the unofficial “first lady,” hosting events for politicians and international guests. The 1809 inauguration of her husband, therefore, made for an easy transition to the role of the president’s wife.

She emerged from the War of 1812 a heroine of American history, deftly rescuing several official documents and a portrait of George Washington from a White House the British had set alight. As a socialite and hostess, Madison knew all of the first 11 presidents on a first-name basis.  A lifelong patron of the arts and sciences, she promoted social progress into the middle of the 19th century.

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2013 Swearing InSaturday morning, the Curtis Bible was used to swear in Governor Pat McCrory’s eight new cabinet secretaries. The Bible, which is in the permanent collection of the State Archives, has quite an interesting story behind it. In fact, it is believed to have saved its namesake’s life.

A native of Caldwell County, Burton McKinley Curtis enlisted in the Army shortly after the U.S. entry into World War I. Assigned as a cook with 113th Field Artillery Regiment, Curtis was sent to Europe less than a month after his enlistment. Curtis’s unit took heavy fire during an assault on German forces as part of the Battle of Saint-Mihiel near Verdun, France, and the Bible reportedly saved Curtis’s life by absorbing the impact of a bullet or shrapnel. The damage to the Bible that resulted from the hit is still evident today.

Curtis BibleAfter receiving an honorable discharge in 1919, Curtis returned to North Carolina and worked as a bailer at a cotton mill. He donated the pocket-sized, war-worn New Testament to the Hall of History (now the N.C. Museum of History) on November 16, 1920. The Bible was eventually transferred to the Archives because it is a document. This piece of North Carolina history was selected for the ceremony by Governor McCrory’s inaugural committee.

The governor provided a commemorative bible to each of his new cabinet secretaries. Some also chose to bring a family bible. The Curtis Bible resided on the the rostrum in front of Justice Paul Newby, who administered the oath.

You can see a list of North Carolina here.

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With a national political convention taking place in Charlotte next month, I invite visitors and North Carolinians, alike, to visit the President James K. Polk State Historic Site.  Polk remains a political icon, and is one of the most highly regarded presidents among scholars and experts.

James Knox Polk, the 11thpresident of the United States, was born in North Carolina in 1795.   While the original log home on the Polk’s farm in Mecklenburg County, just south of Charlotte, has disappeared, a cabin accurate to the period is open to the public at the Polk site.

Reconstructed log cabin similar to one young James K. Polk lived in at the Pres. James K. Polk State Historic Site near Pineville.

Polk and his family moved to Tennessee in 1806 to reunite with other family members already there.  He returned to his home state to attend the University of North Carolina, where he graduated with honors in 1818.   Of his Chapel Hill days he later recalled, “It was here that I received lessons of instructions to which I mainly attribute whatever of success or advancement has attended me in subsequent life.”

After graduation Polk returned to Tennessee to study law.   His first election was to the state legislature in 1823. He then became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and served for 14 years, including 4 as speaker.  In 1837 he was elected Governor of Tennessee for one term.

President James K. Polk

A staunch Democrat, Polk narrowly won election to the Presidency over Henry Clay in 1844, making him the youngest president to that date at age 49.

Polk entered the presidency with a clear plan of action; foremost was westward expansion. Seen by contemporaries as conscientious and attentive to the needs of the country, in his Presidential campaign, he promised not to run for a second term.  True to his word, he did not.

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