The Library of Virginia Newsletter
March 2015

2015 Virginia Women in History Program Honors Eight Outstanding Women

The first African American woman to become a certified public accountant in Virginia, the first woman to preside over the House of Delegates’ powerful budget-writing committee, and an African American poet who uses bold language to raise awareness of social issues are among eight Virginia women recognized by the Library of Virginia as part of its Virginia Women in History program. The eight are also featured on a handsome poster and in the Library’s 2015 Virginia Women in History panel exhibition, on display on the second floor of the Library of Virginia, during the month of March. The exhibition will then travel to libraries, schools, and cultural institutions across the state. Copies of the 2015 poster and learning activities tied to the Virginia Standards of Learning were distributed to public and private schools and cultural institutions across Virginia.

The 2015 Virginia Women in History program culminates on March 26 with an inspiring evening program recognizing the honorees. The ceremony begins at 6:00 PM at the Library of Virginia and will be hosted by May-Lily Lee, with a reception to follow. The program and reception are free. To RSVP, contact 804-692-3999.

The women honored this year are:

Nancy Melvina "Vinnie" Caldwell (August 4, 1868–February 11, 1956), Carroll County
The daughter of a farmer, Caldwell became involved in local politics and won election to the House of Delegates from Carroll County.

Nikki Giovanni (b. 1943), Blacksburg
A devoted teacher widely acclaimed for her verse, Giovanni uses bold language to address social issues based on her experiences as an African American woman.

Ruth Coles Harris
(b. 1928), Richmond
Harris passed the two-day examination to become a certified public accountant at a time when there were fewer than 100 African American CPAs in the nation. She became the first black woman in Virginia to be certified. Harris is this year’s recipient of the VABPW Foundation Business Leadership Award.

Dorothy Shoemaker McDiarmid (October 22, 1906–June 8, 1994), Fairfax County
An able and highly respected legislator, McDiarmid was one of the most influential women ever elected to the House of Delegates.

Rebekah Dulaney Peterkin (September 24, 1849–July 26, 1891), Richmond
The daughter of an Episcopal minister, Peterkin advocated creation of a hospital to provide acute care free of charge to the working poor.

Vivian W. Pinn (b. 1941), Lynchburg
In 1963, Pinn entered the medical school at the University of Virginia and graduated as the only woman and the only African American in her class. In 1982 she became chair of the department of pathology at the Howard University College of Medicine—the first African American woman to hold such a position in the United States.

Elizabeth Bray Allen Smith Stith (ca. 1692–February 22, 1774), Isle of Wight County
A planter and philanthropist, Stith established a £140 trust fund in 1753 to create a free school for six poor boys and girls in Smithfield.

Karenne Wood (b. 1960), Fluvanna County
A Virginia Indian scholar and advocate, Wood helped ensure that the history and culture of native Virginians were acknowledged during the 2007 commemoration of Virginia's colonization.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch/ is the media sponsor for the 2015 Virginia Women in History program. The Virginia Business and Professional Women’s Foundation Fund sponsors the Business Leadership Award and programming for Virginia Women in History. To learn more about the program, visit

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Rare Map of the War of 1812's Battle of Craney Island Is now at the Library of Virginia

A piece of Hampton Roads history from the War of 1812 is now in the possession of the Library of Virginia, where it is being conserved thanks to the generosity of philanthropists Carole and Marcus Weinstein. Documents illustrating the War of 1812 are scarce. The roughly 8” x 13” map, entitled The Defence of Craney Island Map, 1813, by George F. de la Roche,is a rare example of a wartime map from the American perspective, completed by a battle participant at the time of the action.
In 1813, American forces repulsed a 700-strong British landing party that came ashore at Hoffler’s Creek west of Craney Island at the mouth of the Elizabeth River. Their ultimate objective was the capture of Norfolk. A second British attempt on the eastern side of the island also met with defeat. The Americans thus scored a victory protecting Norfolk from British invasion.

De la Roche’s map is described as “Map by Sailing Master George de la Roche, drawn the day after the action, exhibiting a general view of the topography of the country, and of the position of the American and British forces and shipping, who was on the island during the battle and repulse of the British forces, June 22, 1813.Captain George F. de la Roche (1791–1861), sailing master, United States Navy, was born in Offenbach, Germany, and came to New York with his parents in October 1792. He trained as a civil engineer and was in the U.S. Navy during the Battle of Craney Island. He was 21 years old when he drew the map. De la Roche left the Navy to join the merchant service later in life, and eventually served as engineer and designer for Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C., where he is buried.

The map was brought to the Library’s attention by Jeff Herman of Minden, Nevada, who purchased the map from the estate of an art and historical document dealer. “The map should be available to and preserved for the people of Virginia, and for the rest of the United States when we visit your state,” wrote Herman.
According to Stuart Butler—Virginia’s foremost authority on the War of 1812 and author of many publications and books on Virginia’s role in the conflict—the map is the most accurate depiction of the location of British warships and barges at the time of attack of any map or drawing he knows. “The map is even more important because it was either drawn by a participant, likely Sailing Master George de la Roche of the USS Constellation, or at his direction,” said Butler. “This map should become THE map that scholars use from now on to best show the actions around Craney Island on June 22, 1813.”

The map is undergoing minor conservation work and should be cataloged and processed over the next few months.

“We are thankful for Carole and Marcus Weinstein’s generosity, which has allowed the Library of Virginia to add this rare War of 1812 map to our collections, where it will expand our understanding of Virginia’s role in what has been called America’s Second War for Independence,” said Librarian of Virginia Sandra G. Treadway.

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Friends of the Virginia State Archives' "Straight to the Source" Conference Set for March 27

Current and former Library of Virginia staff members will speak at the Friends of the Virginia State Archives’ Straight to the Source Conference to be held at the Library on Friday, March 27, 2015. This marks the 23rd year that the two organizations have presented this annual spring event, which is the longest-running series of public programs at the Library of Virginia focused on the archival collection.

Kathy Jordan, digital initiatives and web services manager, will discuss using the Library’s website. Minor Weisiger, coordinator of archives reference services, will share lesser-known sources for Revolutionary War research at the Library. Sarah Nerney, formerly a local records archivist at the Library, will discuss the Library’s highly successful Montgomery County Chancery Project. The conference will conclude with a presentation by Sonya Coleman, digital collections specialist, on Making History: Transcribe (, the Library’s new crowdsourcing transcription website. This exciting initiative invites the public to help transcribe historic materials from our amazing collections documenting over 400 years of Virginia history, people, and culture.

The cost includes a box lunch: $35 for Friends members ($50 for nonmembers). Make checks payable to the Friends of the Virginia State Archives and mail to: Straight to the Source, c/o Friends of the Virginia State Archives, P.O. Box 4804, Richmond, VA 23220. Attendance is limited to 75 participants and registration ends March 20.

For more information, please contact Anne Brown at 804-741-0136 or You may also send an e-mail to

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Library to Participate in International Conference on Healing History: Memory, Legacy, and Social Change

On April 7, the Library of Virginia will participate in an international conference on Healing History: Memory, Legacy, and Social Change sponsored by Initiatives for Change and Hope in the Cities. The event follows an international conference on a similar theme held in Caux, Switzerland, in 2013, which was attended by hundreds of delegates from around the world as well as several Richmond leaders including Dr. Edward Ayers, president of the University of Richmond, and Christy Coleman, Co-CEO of the American Civil War Museum. Initiatives of Change/Hope in the Cities is the organizer of the 2015 conference.

The Library’s current exhibition, To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade, which runs through May 30, was one of the main reasons local organizers wanted the Library to be part of the conference. The exhibition tells the story of the prominent role Richmond played in the domestic slave trade. This internal trade accounted for the largest forced migration of people in the United States, moving as many as two thirds of a million people from the Upper South to the Lower South. Virginia was the largest mass exporter of enslaved people through the Richmond market, making the trade the most important economic activity in antebellum Virginia.

Despite great strides made toward racial healing, the wounds of history and systemic racism continue to divide communities in societies throughout the world. April 2015 marks 150 years since Emancipation and the end of the American Civil War as well as the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery Civil Rights March and the passing of the Voting Rights Act. It provides a context in which to explore the question: What can we, as a global community, learn together about how to heal history, understand the legacies that keep us apart, and generate energy for building healthy inclusive societies?

The conference will convene scholars, grassroots activists, educators, leaders of racial justice organizations, and representatives of business and government from across the United States and from other countries that are experiencing the legacy of racial and ethnic discrimination. Sessions will address themes of international relevance: the power of story and identity; the role of museums and public history sites in education and healing; the impact of unconscious bias and structural racism, especially in our justice, education, and healthcare systems; immigration and citizenship; and the need to build inclusive economies.

Other Richmond partners include the University of Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Union University, and other historical sites related to the city’s racial history. National partners include the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (Washington, DC), Everyday Democracy (Hartford, CT), the Faith and Politics Institute (Washington, DC), and the William Winter Institute (University of Mississippi). The conference is supported in part by a grant to Initiatives of Change by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

Expected attendees include distinguished groups from South Africa, West Africa, Britain, the Netherlands, France, and India, as well as various regions of the Americas. Activities will be held at the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University, both of which are contributing space and human resources to the event. The registration fee for the whole conference is $150.

Three public forums are free and open to the public. Registration required:

Tuesday, April 7, 8:00 - 9:30 pm - "Living in the aftermath of Slavery & Apartheid: Reflections from the US and South Africa" A conversation with Dr. Edward Ayers and leading historians (Library of Virginia)
Wednesday, April 8, 12:30 - 2:30 pm - "Overcoming bias & inequity in the criminal justice system" (The Depot, VCU)
Wednesday, April 8, 8:00 - 9:30 pm - "Implicit Bias" Featuring the Within Our Lifetime Network (The Depot, VCU)
For more information and a full program see

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Exhibition Coming July 6: Remaking Virginia

Even as the Civil War was still being fought, the status of almost a half-million African Americans in Virginia began to change. No longer were they someone else’s property—they were free. They anticipated the promise of change from their former status as slaves: the promises of education, political participation, and full citizenship. Yet, in their struggle to achieve these goals, freedmen and freedwomen faced the hostility of their former masters and the society that had long benefitted from their labor. Union troops and U.S. government officials reconstructing the Southern states were often indifferent. What challenges did African Americans face in their struggle to achieve what they believed freedom would bring them? What obstacles blocked their efforts to gain citizenship? How successful were African Americans during Reconstruction in claiming their objectives? Did the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution significantly aid them in their struggles? The Library of Virginia’s upcoming exhibition Remaking Virginia: Transformation through Emancipation offers a look at the changing world Virginians faced during Reconstruction. The exhibition opens July 6, 2015, and runs through March 26, 2016.

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Library Schedules Monthly “Transcribe-a-thons”

We hope you’ve had a chance to check out Making History: Transcribe (, the Library of Virginia’s new crowdsourcing transcription website. After inviting the public to help us transcribe all sorts of documents from Virginia’s past—uncovering long-forgotten stories and making them more “searchable” for the future—we were not disappointed! Since its launch about six months ago, almost 4,000 pages have been transcribed by the public and approved by Library staff—and we’re picking up steam!

Part of the appeal of Making History: Transcribe is that people can participate from anywhere in the world. But because we also want to foster a sense of community among our dedicated volunteers, we will host a “Transcribe-a-thon” at the Library of Virginia on the last Saturday of each month from noon to 2:00 PM. Facilitated by the volunteer organization HandsOn Greater Richmond, the Transcribe-a-thon spots are filling up fast, so sign up at You can bring a laptop or work in the Library’s computer classroom.

A Richmond-area high school student, Read Brown, recently selected Making History: Transcribe as his Eagle Scout project and organized a Transcribe-a-thon at his school with more than 30 participants. In a few hours on a Saturday morning, Read’s group transcribed more than 200 documents with more than 450 individual edits.

We want to extend the opportunity to host Transcribe-a-thons to public libraries, schools, and even living rooms! Look for a guide to organizing similar events to be published on the Making History: Transcribe website this spring. Please contact with questions or interest.

—submitted by Sonya Coleman, Information Technology Services

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