Women's monument takes shape in Richmond

Voices from the Garden: The Virginia Women’s Monument’s first phase was unveiled Tuesday with the help of Virginia First Lady Pam Northam and former Virginia First Lady Susan Allen in Richmond.

The granite wall is inscribed with the names of 230 women being honored.

They were chosen for notable achievement and contributions in their chosen field, or their region, the commonwealth and the nation, said former State Senator Mary Margaret Whipple, vice chair of the Virginia Capitol Foundation, which oversees the nation’s first monument dedicated to honoring women.

“This is so exciting. This project started in 2010 and the wall covers several centuries of women who contributed statewide. There are Native Americans, immigrants, entrepreneurs, teachers and African Americans honored here. All covering four centuries,” Whipple said to the crowd of nearly 75 people.

The project is set to be completed in 2019 at Richmond’s Memorial Plaza.

“This monument is intended to inspire young women,” Northam said.

She said when she gives tours to groups, especially groups such as the Girl Scouts, she points out historical women have little recognition on the Capitol grounds. The monument will change that.

Among locals with names on the wall are Pocahontas of Jamestown and Mary Aggie of York County. Aggie, a slave, became a principal in a court case to change Virginia’s statute law paving the way for all Virginians to plead benefit of clergy in court.

There is space on the wall for future honorees. For a woman to be listed, she must be a native Virginian or have lived mostly in Virginia. She must also be deceased at least 10 years.

Mary Johnston, of Buchanan, a successful author and women’s rights advocate has the distinction of having her quote at the base of the wall. Her first two books, Prisoners of Hope and To Have and To Hold told about colonial times. She was also a women’s rights advocate in the early 20th century.

In addition to the wall, plans are in the works for 12 life-size statues in the plaza. Notable local women honored with a statue are the late Ann Burras Laydon (spelling on her first name varies) of Jamestown. She arrived with Capt. Christopher Newport in 1608. She was a 14-year-old maid and one of the first two female settlers. Later she worked as a seamstress and married John Laydon, a laborer. The couple had four daughters.

“She survived through starving time and Native American attacks,” Whipple said.

Constructing Burras’ statue is a challenge since there are no drawings of her.

The Clementina Bird Rind of Williamsburg (ca. 1740-1174) also will be honored with a statue. Her husband, William Rind, was the editor of The Virginia Gazette. After his passing, she served as editor, managing the newspaper and keeping it as the colony’s official printer.

Money to build the monument has been raised through charitable contributions from businesses and individuals.

“The Virginia Women’s Monument Commission raised $3 million dollars so far. We are so close, just $800,000 to go,” Whipple said.

Want to donate?

To contribute to the monument or an individual statue, visit womensmonumentcom.virginia.gov.

Copyright © 2018, The Virginia Gazette
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