Women have played an integral part in Virginia from its beginnings, yet their contributions have often been overlooked in the history books. Until well into the twentieth century, written histories tended to focus on the historically male-dominated fields of government and politics, the military and large-scale property ownership to the virtual exclusion of all other venues of leadership or achievement. They ignored women’s critical roles as wives, mothers, educators, nurses, lay leaders, farmers, artists, writers, reformers, pioneers, business leaders, laborers, civic activists, and community builders.

Today, we recognize and celebrate women’s accomplishments in all walks of life, particularly in March, which Congress has designated as National Women’s History Month. The Library of Virginia presents the 2010 Virginia Women in History project to honor eight women, past and present, who have made important contributions to Virginia, the nation, and the world. We encourage you to learn more about these fascinating women who saw things differently from their contemporaries, developed new approaches to old problems, served their communities, strove for excellence based on the courage of their convictions, and initiated changes in Virginia and the United States that continue to affect our lives today.

This year’s project marks the Library of Virginia’s participation in the 2010 statewide program “Minds Wide Open: Virginia Celebrates Women in the Arts.”

Prestwould, the home of the Skipwith family in Mecklenburg County Image courtesy of the Library of Virginia Jean Miller Skipwith

Mecklenburg County
Book Collector

Jean Miller Skipwith, Lady Skipwith, assembled one of the largest libraries owned by a Virginia woman early in the nineteenth century.
Nominated by:
Alyson L. Taylor-White, Chester
Ethel Bailey Furman Image courtesy of the Library of Virginia Ethel Bailey Furman


Ethel Bailey Furman was one of the earliest African American women to work as an architect in Virginia.
Kate Mason Rowland Image courtesy of the Library of Virginia Kate Mason Rowland


Kate Mason Rowland is best known for her biography of her great-great-granduncle George Mason.
Nominated by:
Rashad Hairston, in Patricia Costisís fourth-grade class (2009), Dreamkeepers Academy, Norfolk
Edythe C. Harrison Image courtesy of the Library of Virginia Edythe C. Harrison
(1934– )

Civic Leader

Edythe C. Harrison's love of music led her to help found the Virginia Opera Association.
Mollie Holmes Adams Image courtesy of the Library of Virginia Mollie Holmes Adams

King William County
Upper Mattaponi Leader

Mollie Holmes Adams helped preserve the Upper Mattaponi heritage by passing on the almost-lost art of feather weaving and recording her herbal remedies.
Nominated by:
Arlene Milner, Keysville
Marian A. Van Landingham Image courtesy of the Library of Virginia Marian A. Van Landingham
(1937– )

Civic Leader

Marian A. Van Landingham founded a one-of-a-kind art center in Alexandria.
Queena Stovall image courtesy of the Stovall Family with thanks to the Daura Gallerery, Lynchburg College Queena Stovall

Lynchburg and Amherst County

Taking up painting early in her sixties, Queena Stovall created works that recalled her life in rural Virginia and earned her the title the "Grandma Moses of Virginia."
Janis Martin Image courtesy of the Library of Virginia Janis Martin

Singer and Composer

Known as the "Female Elvis," Janis Martin was a pioneer rockabilly star.