- Virginia Women: Their Lives and Times, Vol. 1, ed. by Cynthia A. Kierner and Sandra Gioia Treadway
Virginia Women: Their Lives and Times is an entry in the Southern Women: Their Lives and Times series published by University of Georgia Press, a series that currently includes volumes on eight other southern states. This book is the first of two planned volumes focusing on Virginia, and it contains seventeen readable and engaging essays spanning from the colonial era through the Civil War. They are prefaced by a lucid and sophisticated introduction by editors Cynthia A. Kierner and Sandra Gioia Treadway.
The collection begins with Kierner’s essay on Grace Sherwood, a formidable woman who endured with tenacity and commitment a “trial by water” as the last Virginian accused of being a witch (p. 11). Kristalyn M. Shefveland discusses two women who participated on opposite sides of Bacon’s Rebellion: Cockacoeske, a powerful leader of the Pamunkey Indians whose stature and eminence increased after Bacon’s Rebellion, and Sarah Harris Stegge Grendon, who, as an accused traitor, suffered a decline in fortune and status but remained aggressively entrepreneurial in the years after the rebellion. Terri L. Snyder’s essay presents Jane Webb, the tenaciously litigious free black woman married to an enslaved man, whose forthright language condemning slavery brought her ten lashes legally delivered upon her naked back.
The book’s essays on Revolutionary-era women begin with Martha J. King’s piece on Williamsburg widow and newspaper editor Clementina Rind, perhaps Virginia’s first woman of letters. An essay by Linda L. Sturtz examines the remarkably determined businesswoman and widow Sarah Jerdone, who participated in the American Revolution but was always mindful of her family’s economic interests. Patrick Henry’s sister, Anne Henry Christian, whose letters and business records allow Gail S. Terry to demonstrate how at least one Revolutionary War era widow used every legal means available to protect her family’s economic well-being, is the subject of yet another entry. With few documents available, Mary C. Ferrari teases out the remarkable story of a legendary Virginia heroine, Mary Draper Ingles, a woman who was kidnapped by the Shawnees but courageously escaped and resumed her life as an active member of a prominent backcountry family until her death in 1815. Jon Kukla follows with the amazing story of Elizabeth Henry Campbell Russell, the determined evangelical sister of Patrick Henry who promoted Methodism in urban Virginia. Her life set the stage for Elizabeth Jacquelin Ambler Brent Carrington’s efforts, detailed by Sarah Hand Meacham, to rescue and sustain orphan girls as a founding member of Richmond’s Female Humane Association. [End Page 666]
Women in the early national and antebellum periods are discussed in five essays, beginning with the incredible Dolley Madison, who, according to Catherine Allgor, used her formidable social skills and keen political insights to create the job of the nation’s first lady. According to Catherine Kerrison, Harriet Hemings, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, lived much of her adult life as a white person in a complicated journey that reveals the complexities of racial self-identity in conflict with societal racial identity for Virginia’s light-skinned, free black women. The essay by Helen C. Rountree on Edy (Edith) Turner reveals the desperate plight of a Nottoway Indian leader faced with the near extinction of her people and their culture. Deborah A. Lee tells of how two pious white women committed much of their lives to freeing and sending formerly enslaved people to Liberia, hoping thereby to enable them to prosper as free people in a land they could call their own. Like her relative Harriet Hemings, Thomas Jefferson’s granddaughter Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge left Virginia and lived most of her adult life in New England. She also traveled extensively throughout Europe and parts...