Dictionary of Virginia Biography

Cynthia Ellen Elizabeth Virginia Addington Boatwright (12 December 1898–5 March 1973), civic leader, was born in the Wise County town of Coeburn, the daughter of James L. Addington and Sarah Frances Blair Addington. Her father established the Addington Mercantile Company and became a prominent and influential businessman as well as a Baptist minister. Addington attended the Coeburn public schools but finished her last two years of high school at Virginia Intermont College in Bristol. She stayed for two more years and graduated in 1918 with a teacher's degree in voice, harmony, and the history of music. On 12 December 1919 she married Roy Gilley Boatwright, of Scott County. They lived in Coeburn, where he started as a cashier at the First National Bank and later worked in her father's store. From 1944 to 1965 Roy Boatwright was postmaster of Coeburn. They had one daughter.

Boatwright was known for her love of music as well as her pride in Wise County, and she worked hard to promote the mountain region of Virginia. Like many women of her time and economic position, she committed herself to volunteer activities and civic work in place of a paying job working outside the home. On 12 June 1934 Boatwright was elected to the Coeburn town council, becoming the first woman in Wise County to win political office. She served for two two-year terms and was the only incumbent reelected in 1936. Boatwright joined the Coeburn Woman's Club in the 1930s and served as the district vice president of the Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs in 1934 and as president from 1935 to 1938. She was elected vice president of the state federation in 1938 and in 1941 became the first member from southwestern Virginia to serve as president. During Boatwright's years as president, from 1941 to 1944, the VFWC turned its attention to the war effort, donating two ambulances to the American Red Cross, encouraging women to volunteer for civil defense, conservation, and nursing services, and supporting the United Service Organizations. She also served on the Virginia Defense Council. From 1944 to 1947 Boatwright chaired the General Federation of Women's Clubs Aviation Defense Board. She was president of the Coeburn Woman's Club from 1945 to 1946 and president of the Wise County Federation of Women's Clubs from 1944 to 1947.

In 1944 Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College and Polytechnic Institute merged with the Radford State Teachers College to become Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The fourteen-member board of visitors of the expanded institution included four seats reserved for women. In December 1944 Boatwright was one of the first women appointed to this VPI–Radford College board of visitors. She served until 1953. Boatwright worked strenuously for the Democratic Party in the latter part of the 1940s and the 1950s. She was a member of the Democratic State Central Committee, chair of the Virginia Ninth District Democratic Party Women's Division, and a delegate to the 1952 and 1956 Democratic National Conventions. From 1954 to 1958 Boatwright represented Virginia on the National Democratic Advisory Committee on Political Organization.

Boatwright became a Methodist after she married and actively applied her energies to her church. She played the piano for funeral and Sunday church services throughout her life. From 1947 to 1951 Boatwright served as president of the Big Stone Gap district of the Women's Society of Christian Service. In 1960 she headed a fund drive for additions to buildings at the district Methodist camp. Boatwright also worked for the Virginia Heart Fund, the Virginia Cancer Foundation, Breaks of the Cumberland Park, and the Eastern Wise Chapter of the American Red Cross, and she wrote about Coeburn social and community events for the Norton Coalfield Progress.

Cynthia Ellen Elizabeth Virginia Addington Boatwright died in Grundy on 5 March 1973 and was buried in the Laurel Grove Cemetery in Norton.

Sources Consulted:
Biography in Etta Belle Walker Northington, A History of the Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs, 1907–1957 [1958], 79–82; Cynthia Addington Boatwright Papers, Special Collections, University Libraries, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg; information supplied by daughter Ida Virginia Boatwright Spraker and by Herbert D. Jones and Ray Richardson; Marriage Register, Wise Co., Bureau of Vital Statistics, Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health, Record Group 36, Library of Virginia; Coeburn town council minutes; Bristol Herald-Courier, 4 Sept. 1961; Virginia Club Woman 13 (Oct. 1940): 12 (portrait), 25; obituaries in Bristol Herald-Courier, 6 Mar. 1973, and Norton Coalfield Progress, 8 Mar. 1973.

Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Laura Katz Smith.

How to cite this page:
Laura Katz Smith,"Cynthia Ellen Elizabeth Virginia Addington Boatwright (1898–1973)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2001 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.php?b=Boatwright_Cynthia_Addington, accessed [today's date]).

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