Natalie Friend McFaden Blanton (1 January 1895–25 August 1987), writer and civic leader, was born in Marion, the daughter of Frank Talbot McFaden, a Presbyterian minister, and Mary Minge Friend McFaden. The family moved in 1896 to Lynchburg and in December 1903 to Richmond, where her father became pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. She was especially devoted to her father, recalled that her family was "particularly close and harmonious," and remembered many instructive family discussions of woman suffrage and other topics. In 1910 McFaden enrolled in Virginia Randolph Ellett's school (later Saint Catherine's School). There she came under the influence of the school's founder, who groomed her best students for Bryn Mawr College and encouraged McFaden to concentrate on college preparation courses instead of the arts. After graduating from Ellett's school in 1913 McFaden attended Bryn Mawr and received an A.B. in 1917.
On 1 January 1918 she married Wyndham Bolling Blanton, a captain in the Army Medical Corps whom she had known since childhood. After completing an internship in New York City in 1919, he joined a private medical practice in Richmond. They had three sons and one daughter. After her children had all begun school Blanton became active in civic affairs, concentrating first on education. She was appointed to Richmond's school board on 11 August 1931 and served on it for two years. Between 1936 and 1941 Blanton worked part-time as publicity director at Saint Catherine's School, and from 1938 to 1951 she served on the Richmond Public Library Board. She was a member of the Richmond Board of Health from 1948 until September 1955, a charter director of the Richmond Citizens Association, a director of the Friends Association for Colored Children, and a board member of Richmond Forward, a civic association.
Blanton became interested in politics in childhood when her father explained to her the satirical humor of political cartoons. In 1947 and 1948 she was a member of the Governor's Commission on Reorganization of State Government, and from 1950 until June 1956 she served on the Governor's Commission to Provide Suitable Text on Virginia's History, Government, and Geography (later the Virginia History and Government Textbook Commission). In 1957 she sat on the Virginia Advisory Legislative Commission to Study the Milk Commission. Blanton became active in electoral politics in 1949 when she served as Third Congressional District vice chairman of John Stewart Battle's gubernatorial campaign. In 1952 she supported the Democrats for Eisenhower movement, and a year later she chaired the party's Richmond women's division during Thomas Bahnson Stanley's bid for governor. Blanton was vice chairman of the February 1955 Virginia Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, and she was elected to the Richmond City Democratic Committee the same year.
On 9 April 1955 Blanton announced her candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination for the House of Delegates from Richmond. She called for improvement in the quality of Richmond's schools and hospitals and in medical treatment for the young, the elderly, and the mentally ill. Blanton received 8,383 votes in the party primary, which placed her ninth in the twelve-candidate field for Richmond's seven seats. The following day the Richmond Times-Dispatch expressed regret at her defeat, remarking that "some day this city is going to get over its senseless prejudice against electing women to public office."
Blanton also devoted herself to writing. In 1950 she published In That Day: Poems of the Second World War, her first volume of poetry. In sensitive verse she described her concern for the safety of her son serving overseas, her reaction to the bombing of Japan, and her sadness over the losses that her friends and neighbors suffered. A member of the Poetry Society of Virginia, Blanton published The Door Opened (1959), Let's Not Be Grave (1965), Songs of Sorrow and Love (1979), and Poems for Christmas (1979). She produced three works based on the papers of Virginia Randolph Ellett, Miss Jennie and Her Letters: An Effort at Documentation (1955), Love Remains (1960), and Ninety-Nine Notes to Love Remains (1962). Blanton published two books on her family, West Hill, Cumberland County, Virginia: The Story of Those Who Have Loved It (1964) and In Gratitude to Frank Talbot McFaden, 1864–1933, and Mary Minge Friend McFaden, 1868–1942 (1966). She also assisted in her husband's research on medical history until his death on 6 January 1960. Blanton later served on the board of the Historic Richmond Foundation, of which her spouse had been president.
In June 1960, at a convocation celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of Bryn Mawr's founding, Blanton won recognition for her "able and vigorous" participation in local and state affairs, her career as a writer, and her former service as a president of the Richmond branch of the American Association of University Women. She was one of seventy-five graduates honored for distinguished service. On Alumna Day at Saint Catherine's School in April 1969 Blanton was one of four women to receive a Distinguished Alumna Award.
About 1962 Blanton moved from her home on Seminary Avenue to a restored house on East Grace Street in Church Hill. Long a member of the Woman's Club of Richmond, she served as the organization's president from 1963 to 1964. By 1966 Blanton had moved to the Berkshire Apartments, where she lived until about 1984. She resided for the last three years of her life at the Westminster-Canterbury retirement center. Natalie Friend McFaden Blanton died there of heart failure on 25 August 1987. Her body was cremated, and her ashes were buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
Blanton gave autobiographical data and family history in West Hill, Cumberland County, Virginia: The Story of Those Who Have Loved It (1964), first quotation on 45, and In Gratitude to Frank Talbot McFaden, 1864–1933, and Mary Minge Friend McFaden, 1868–1942 (1966); in West Hill she gave her birth place as Marion, but birth was recorded in Birth Register, Lynchburg, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health, Record Group 36, Library of Virginia (BVS); letters and family genealogical records in Wyndham Bolling Blanton Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond; 1918 marriage recorded in BVS Marriage Register, Richmond City, 1917; feature articles in Richmond Times-Dispatch, 11 Aug. 1931, 18 Feb. 1955 (portrait), and Richmond News Leader, 12 Feb. 1963; election campaign covered in Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10 Apr., 10, 13 (second quotation) July 1955; Sandra Gioia Treadway, Women of Mark: A History of the Woman's Club of Richmond, Virginia, 1894–1994 (1995), 82, 114, 140; Bryn Mawr College: The Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Convocation in Honor of Bryn Mawr Alumnae (1960), third quotation; St. Catherine's Bulletin 32 (summer 1969): 10–11 (portrait); obituaries with some errors in Richmond News Leader and Richmond Times-Dispatch, both 26 Aug. 1987.
Written for the Dictionary of Virginia Biography by Frances S. Pollard.
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>Frances S. Pollard,"Natalie Friend McFaden Blanton (1895–1987)," Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia (1998– ), published 2001 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.php?b=Blanton_Natalie_McFaden, accessed [today's date]).
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