The Library of Virginia >> Exhibitions >> Working Out Her Destiny
  Working Out Her Destiny
Where are the Women: Examples from the LVA Collections
The Invisible Economy

Introduction

Shaping Public Opinion

Women's Organizations

Education

Work

Service to Country

Votes for Women

Electing
Women

Where are the Women:
Examples from the LVA Collections

Notable
Virginia
Women

Timeline

Related Resources


An Ordinary Life |Tales through Letters | A War Veteran
Family Violence | Mistaken Identity | Divorce and Remarriage
Abuse and Independence | Property Rights | The Invisible Economy
The Unfortunate Mary Webley | Family or Freedom
That Properly Belongs to Every Christian Man, 1708 | Virginia Indian Women

Testimony taken during the investigation and trials following the murder of Lucy Pollard in Lunenburg County in 1895 disclosed fascinating details about how women in rural Virginia provided for their families and engaged in exchanges of goods and services. When describing where they were when they first learned about Pollard's death, Pokey Barnes told how she and her mother, Mary Barnes, had walked to Ellen Gayle's house and negotiated an exchange of a chicken for some cornmeal and a child's dress:

"We started to walk off and Mamma said, 'Donít go, I want to get two chickens,' and asked Ellen what she asked for them. Ellen said they were thirty cents a pound in Richmond. Mamma told her she wouldn't give her thirty cents a pound." Ellen Gayles settled for twenty-five cents for two chickens then decided that she would rather be paid in meat instead of in money. "She told Mamma to get her a quarter's worth of beef from Mrs. Lucy Pollard, and Mamma told her she would do it. Then me and Ellen started back to my house."

In her book on the Lucy Pollard mystery, the historian Suzanne Lebsock wrote, "This was the hidden economy of the poor, a ceaseless exchange among women who struck deals in person and moved goods, one house to another, on bare feet."

Mary Barnes. 1895. Published in the Richmond Planet, 3 August 1895 Photograph. The Library of Virginia

Pokey Barnes. 1896. Published in the Richmond Planet, 27 June 1896. Photograph. The Library of Virginia

Murder in Virginia. Southern Justice on Trial. Suzanne Lebsock. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003. Bound volume. The Library of Virginia