12 women make the cut for Virginia monument

  • Posted: Monday, December 9, 2013 10:43 a.m., Updated: Monday, December 9, 2013 12:13 p.m.

RICHMOND, Va. - One dozen women have been selected from Virginia's four centuries of history to be memorialized with a bronze monument on Capitol Square.

They range from the obvious, such as Martha Washington, to the obscure. The latter includes who is believed to be the first female chief of the Pamunkey Indian tribe, Cockacoeske, and Ann Burras Laydon of Jamestown, the first married female settler.

Perhaps the biggest omission: Pocahontas.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the Women of Virginia Commemorative Commission made its final selections last week.

Commission members picked the 12 from a list compiled by a panel of historians and narrowed by an executive committee.

The absence of Pocahontas, who has been celebrated in film, Virginia landmarks and history books, prompted a protest by one commission member.

Mary Abel Smith took out a full-page ad in the Thanksgiving edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It appealed to readers and urged them to contact board members to reconsider Pocahontas.

"Pocahontas spent her life in support of the peaceful merging of cultures," the ad states. "She deserves a prominent place in the history of accomplished women in Virginia."

Pocahontas is credited with saving the life of Jamestown settler John Smith in 1607. Her marriage to tobacco planter John Rolfe in 1614 was considered beneficial to peace between Native Americans and the settlers.

Abel Smith said she was "horrified" to learn Pocahontas would not be included.

"The tradition of Virginia has to be promoted, and Pocahontas is one of the great ones," she said.

Lisa Hicks-Thomas, Gov. Bob McDonnell's secretary of administration and chairwoman of the commission, said that "there was no way we were going to be able to come up with a list that everybody was happy about."

Famous entertainers from Virginia such as Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey and Patsy Cline were among those who will not be cast in bronze, Hicks-Thomas said. She added that many, including Pocahontas, will be memorialized on a glass panel that will ring the monument space.

The commission has selected an artist and design for the monument. Now the panel must raise money for the monument, which is expected to cost $3 million and is targeted for completion in March 2015.

The 12 who will be cast in bronze are:

- Clementina Rind of Williamsburg, publisher of the Virginia Gazette.

- Mary Draper Ingles of southwest Virginia. She was a frontierswoman who was abducted by Shawnee Indians who escaped and traveled 600 miles to get home.

- Sally Louisa Tompkins, a Confederate hospital administrator.

- Elizabeth Keckley of Dinwiddie County, a former slave, seamstress and confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln.

- Sarah G. Boyd Jones of Richmond, an African-American physician who was the first woman to pass the state's medical board examinations.

- Virginia Estelle Randolph of Henrico County, an educator.

- Laura Lu Copenhaver of Smyth County, an entrepreneur.

- Maggie L. Walker of Richmond, the first African-American woman to charter a bank in the U.S.

- Adele Goodman Clark of Richmond, who fought for women's right to vote.

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