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Posts Tagged ‘Stories from North Carolina Women’s History’

Wiel

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.

Perhaps North Carolina’s best known woman suffrage leader, Gertrude Weil came from a long line of social, religious and political activists. Educated at Smith College, she returned to her native Goldsboro and involved herself in several associations, becoming a protégé of women’s rights advocate Sallie Southall Cotten.

As a founder and the first president of the North Carolina Suffrage League Weil tirelessly advocated for the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Over time, Weil became a mainstay of practically every private effort connected with social welfare. Following in the footsteps of her mother, she advocated child labor legislation and spearheaded fundraising for Jewish projects relief projects.

Wiel and Others

By the 1960s Weil was well into her eighties, but that didn’t stop her from taking an active role in race issues. In an ironic twist the North Carolina legislature approved the 19th Amendment in May 1971, which she had fought for the in the 1910s, the same month Wiel died.

Read more about women’s suffrage on NCpedia, and see more images of Wiel in the State Archives

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Reconstructing Tryon Palace

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.

Restoring North Carolina’s eighteenth-century capitol, “Tryon’s Palace,” was a daunting prospect in 1929 to all but a small network of visionary ladies, each with ties to the state’s cultural and historic societies.

These influential women included Gertrude S. Carraway and Minette Chapman Duffy of New Bern, Maude Moore Latham and May Gordon Kellenberger of Greensboro, Kate B. Reynolds of Winston-Salem and Ruth Coltrane Cannon of Concord. Together, they worked tirelessly for the next 30 years to make the dream of a reconstructed Tryon Palace a reality. To ensure success, these ladies collaborated with governors, local officials, museum directors, restoration specialists and the public.

The path to gaining and excavating the Palace’s complete site included moving a major highway and bridge, acquiring the one surviving colonial building, and relocating a neighborhood. Mrs. Latham and Mrs. Kellenberger further aided the cause with financial aid for constructing, landscaping and furnishing much of the Palace. These aims were achieved at a time when a woman’s right to vote was fairly new, but other advances in equal rights were yet to come.

Now open for more than 50 years and welcoming nearly 175,000 visitors annually, Tryon Palace owes its very being to these determined dreamers.

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Brother Exum

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.

Lillian Exum Clement—called Brother Exum by her fellow legislators—was the first woman in the South to hold legislative office, taking her seat in the North Carolina House of Representatives in 1921.  Nominated as a Democratic candidate two months before the Nineteenth Amendment granted her and other women the right to vote, she beat two male opponents in the primary by an astounding margin of 10,368 to 41.

Clement was born in Black Mountain in 1894, and she worked in the Buncombe County sheriff’s office while studying law at night. In 1916 she passed the bar exam and the next year opened her own practice. An active legislator, she introduced seventeen bills. She sponsored a bill to have the state assume control of a home for unwed mothers, garnering widespread opposition (she was pelted with eggs and vegetables while speaking on the bill’s behalf in Asheville). Clement did not seek reelection, but was appointed director of the State Hospital at Morganton. At age 31, she died of pneumonia and was buried in Riverside Cemetery.

In 1997 an organization to promote and support Democratic women running for public office in North Carolina was established. It took the name Lillian’s List, in honor of Clement.

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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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Flora MacDonald

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.

Famous heroine Flora MacDonald was born in Scotland in 1722. Since little is known about MacDonald’s early life, much of it has become something of a folktale.

While still in Scotland, MacDonald became involved in a plot to help usher Prince Charles Edward Stuart to safety after the failed Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. She traveled with the prince who was disguised as her servant. For her part in the escape, she was imprisoned for about a year.  By the time of her release MacDonald had become a celebrity both at home in Scotland and abroad, though she maintained throughout her life that she helped the fugitive as she would help any person in need.

Immigrating to North Carolina in 1774, she and her husband made their home near Pekin, in what is now Montgomery County.  True to the allegiance to the crown that the couple demonstrated in Scotland, Allen MacDonald took up arms with other Highlanders bound for the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge as the Revolutionary War began to heat up. Allen, a son and a son-in-law were all captured and imprisoned in Philadelphia. MacDonald endured hardship and illness, and her North Carolina property was confiscated. She eventually returned home to Scotland where she died in 1790.

Read more about the Highland Scots in North Carolina on NCpedia.

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Aunt Abby House

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.

Abby House, known widely as “Aunt Abby,” was born around 1796 and lived much of her life near Franklinton.  Described as being stooped, grim-looking and often smoking a corn cob pipe, House carried one or two canes at all times, reputedly both to help her walk and to help her make points.

Honoring her promise to nurse, and bring home to bury if necessary, her eight nephews during the Civil War, House traveled rails and walked roads to care for the boys.  It was not long before she saw that her services were needed by more than just her kinfolk, and she began to help other Confederate soldiers in need.  She was frequently within close proximity to battles.

Described by Governor Zebulon Vance as “the ubiquitous, indefatigable and inevitable Mrs. House,” House often paid visits to various leaders of the Confederacy, including Jefferson Davis.  In 1877, she took an honored place on the platform at Vance’s inauguration.  When Vance proclaimed “I will, so help me God,” Aunt Abby was heard saying “That you will honey, that you will.”

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Image of Rose Greenhow from the book My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule At Washington, by Rose Greenhow, 1863.

Image of Rose Greenhow from the book My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule At Washington, by Rose Greenhow, 1863.

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.

Before the Civil War, Rose O’Neal Greenhow, a widowed Washington socialite turned Confederate spy, was well known for her pro-states’ rights and slavery expansionist views and for maintaining friendly relationships with leaders from the North.

When war broke out she was recruited her to lead a Confederate espionage ring. In 1861 she provided General Pierre G.T. Beauregard with information that assisted his victory at the first Battle of Bull Run. Shortly thereafter, she was placed her under house arrest and later transferred to a prison, where she still managed to relay messages to the South. In 1862 the federal government sent her to the South where she was welcomed as a hero.

Jefferson Davis sent Greenhow to Europe in 1863 to raise support for the Confederacy. Her return trip a year later was aboard the blockade-runner Condor, which ran aground 200 yards from Fort Fisher. She feared capture since she was carrying dispatches for the Confederacy and $2,000 worth of coins. She got in a small boat with five soldiers to row ashore, against the captain’s advice. The boat capsized and the weight of the purse pulled her beneath the waters to her death. She was buried with full military honors in Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington.

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