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Women of the New South

 

In her delightful "Reminiscences of a Long Life" Mrs. Sarah Pryor quotes a letter written by her husband, ex-judge Roger A. Pryor, in which occurred the following words: "When I renewed my oath of allegiance to the Union I did so in good faith and without reservation. But as I understand that oath it not only restrains me from acts of positive hostility to the government but pledges me to do my utmost for its welfare and stability. And, while I am more immediately concerned to see the South restored to its former prosperity I am anxious that the whole country may be reunited on the best of common interest and fraternal regard. And this object, it appears to me, can only be obtained by conceding to all classes the unrestricted rights guaranteed them by the laws and by obliterating as speedily and as entirely as possible the distinctions which have separated the North and South into hostile sections."

This letter was written from New York in 1867, and, of course, the rule of conduct outlined in the words here quoted was more difficult to follow when he declared them than it has been in later years. In general, however, it has been followed by all who served the Confederacy in high military and civic station.

And with the women no less than with the men the necessity of accepting the situation and of adjusting themselves to the new conditions made a powerful appeal. This was true of the women and the men who remained in the South, as well as those who immediately after the war sought the larger opportunity for a betterment of fortune which the wealthy and growing North and West offered.

The latter found means of helping the South of which at the outset they did not dream. In the book just named Mrs. Pryor mentions many instances of this sort in her own experience. From her wealthy New York neighbors she brought aid to many poor people, formerly of high position in the South, whom she met in that city. She served on committees which gave entertainments in New York for the endowment of scholarships in Washington and Lee University in Virginia; for the relief of yellow fever sufferers in Florida and Alabama; and for succor to the survivors of the tidal wave which destroyed Galveston in 1900. But she did not find time to tell about any of this work in books until within the past few years.

The Southern states have produced and are producing many prominent women in all the great fields of activity. They have won a wide reputation for hard, conscientious, intelligent work. In the social scheme of the New South there are no Amelia Sedleys or Dora Spenlows. A great many of them have made their mark national and, some of them, international in literature. Their names, Mrs. Collier Willcox, Mrs. Dolly Williams Kirk, Mrs. Kate Slaughter McKinney, Miss Gertrude Smith, Mrs. Abby Meguire Roach, Mrs. Emma Bell Miles, Miss Maia Pettus, Mrs. Lawrence Turnbull, Mrs. Mary Ware, Miss Lafayette McLaws, Mrs. Ellen Chapeau, Mrs. Carolina Smith Mahoney and Miss Ella Howard Bryan and many others, confront us in the table of contents of the best magazines.

A large number of the writers of the most popular novels of recent times are Southern women. Among these are Miss Ellen Glasgow, Mrs. Amelia Rives Troubetzkoy, author of "The Quick and the Dead" and many other books which have a wide circulation; Mrs. Alice Hegan Rice, well known as the writer of "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch," "Lovey Mary" and many other tales; Mrs. Grace McGowan Cooke, Miss Margaret Prescott Montague, Mrs. Mary Finley Leonard, Mrs. Annie Booth McKinney, Miss Abbie Carter Goodloe, Mrs. George Madden Martin, and Mrs. Danske Dandridge. Mary Murfree who, under the pen-name of "Charles Egbert Craddock," has made every square mile of the mountains in her native Tennessee classic ground to writers of fiction of the higher order; Frances Courtney Baylor has done a similar service for the Blue Ridge and for many of the streams which have their sources in that range.

Mrs. Howard Weedon, member of a family of slaveholders for several generations, in addition to her tales and poems on Southern subjects, is a painter of Negroes, whose work has attracted wide attention.
Mrs. Lucy Meachem Thurston has given us vivid glimpses of Virginia and other parts of the South Atlantic Seaboard. As an illustrator of her own and other novels, poems and sketches, Mrs. Louise Clarkson Whitelock is well known to a large circle of readers. The great-granddaughters of General Isaac Shelby, the first Governor of Kentucky; Miss Eleanor Talbot Kinkead and Miss Elizabeth Shelby Kinkead are novelists and scholars of reputation, the latter also a lecturer on English literature.

In other branches of literature Southern women are also actively at work. A very good illustrator of that section's readiness and skill with the pen is given by Miss Mildred Lewis Rutherford in "The South in History and Literature," recently published. Miss Rutherford herself is an educator and a writer of educational works. Miss Grace Elizabeth King in her novels has written entertainingly of De Soto, Jean Baptiste Le Moine, founder of New Orleans, and other prominent characters in Southern history. Interesting lives of George Mason and Charles Carroll, of Carrollton, have been written by Miss Kate Mason Rowland. Miss Emily Virginia Mason (recently deceased) sister of John Thomas Mason, first Governor of Michigan, was the author of "Robert E. Lee," and wrote reminiscences of men and things in her native South. Miss Annie Maria Barnes is a well-known writer of histories and biographies, besides being a journalist and active religious worker.

In the intervals between her novels and plays Miss Sarah Barnwell Elliott has found time to write an occasional biography.

To the role of active women journalists the South has made many very creditable contributions. Among them are Miss Martha W. Austin, of New Orleans; Mrs. Sarah Beaumont Kennedy, of Memphis, widow of the late editor of the "Commercial Appeal" of that city; Miss Cally Ryland, of Richmond; Mrs. Annie Kendrick Walker, of Birmingham, Alabama; Mrs. Evelyn Scott Snead Barnett, of Louisville, and Mrs. Helen Pitkin Schertz, of New Orleans. All of these are also workers in other fields, and are prominent in the social life of their respective communities. Mrs. Mary Edwards Bryan, of Atlanta, who has been on the editorial staff of several journals and magazines of the North and South, is a prolific writer for the leading magazines and the author of many novels, and is a member of several clubs in New York and in the South.

In Marion Harland's "Autobiography" published in 1910, occurred these words, "The idea of reviewing my life upon paper first came to me with the consciousness, which was almost a shock, that of all the authors still on active professional duty in our country I am the only one whose memory runs back to the stage of our national history which preceded the Civil War by a quarter century. I alone am left to tell of my own knowledge and experience when the old South was in debt and in trouble."

But Mrs. Terhune, who was born in Virginia in 1831, must have had a slight lapse of memory when she was penning these words, for Mrs. Pryor, who was born in Virginia in 1830, as already cited in this article, is a living writer, and Mrs. Ruth McEnery Stuart, novelist and clubwoman, who was born in Louisiana long before the Civil War, and who, as the widow of a cotton planter, remembers the old South, and though she has resided in New York in recent years, has been a factor of some influence in the building of the new South. Mrs. Virginia Carolina Clay Clopton, born in North Carolina in 1825, widow of Clement Claiborne Clay, of Alabama, and author of "Memories of Mrs. Clay, of Alabama," or "A Belle of the Fifties," is also still living. Mrs. Myrta Lockett Avary, who resided in Atlanta and who has been actively identified with settlement and charity work for many years, and has been contributor to many magazines and newspapers, and who knows a little of the old South from recollections, is the author of "A Virginia Girl in the Civil War" and "Dixie After the War," and has edited "A Diary from Dixie" and "Letters and Recollections of Alexander H. Stevens." The daughter of Louis T. Wigfall, of Texas, a senator of the United States and of the Confederacy, wrote a book a few years ago entitled "A Southern Girl in '61," which was widely read. This is Mrs. Louise Sophie Wigfall Wright, and she resides in Baltimore. Mrs. Mary Anna Jackson, widow of "Stonewall" Jackson, the distinguished Confederate general author of the "Memoirs" of her husband, was living in Charlotte, North Carolina, until recently. She, too, like all the other ladies mentioned here, has been prominent in the progressive movements along all lines in the New South. In active educational work, in an executive capacity and as teachers many Southern women are conspicuous. Miss Julia S. Tutwiler, the president of the Alabama Normal College, at Livingston, was also an active worker in prison reform. Mainly through her efforts the University of Alabama has been opened to the girls of that state. She is author also of many songs used in Alabama's public schools. Mrs. Elizabeth Buford, of Nashville, Tennessee, is the founder and regent of the Buford College, of that city, and has been connected with other educational institutions of the South. Mrs. Kate Waller Barrett, of Alexandria, Virginia, is a well-known sociologist, and is president of the Florence Crittenden Mission, in Washington, D. C. Miss Mary Kendrick is at the head of the faculty of Sweet Briar College, in the Virginia town of that name. At Herndon, in that same state. Miss Virginia Castleman is in charge of the music department of the Herndon Seminary, and is the author of many excellent works for young people. The librarian of the Carnegie Library in Nashville, Tennessee, is Miss Mary Hannah Johnson, who has also organized other libraries in the South. Among others in the long list of educators in many fields are Miss Margaret Warner Morley, of Tryon, North Carolina; Miss Florence Rena Sabin and Miss Lida Le Tall, of Baltimore; Miss Myra Geraldine Gross, of Emmitsburg, Maryland; Miss Frances Ninno Green and Miss Eliza Frances Ambrose, of Montgomery, Alabama.

In the agricultural field women rarely distinguish themselves. Mrs. Virginia Anne King, however, of Greenville, Texas, has one of the largest stock farms in the world, extending into two or three of the counties of large area of that state, and comprises many ranges and farms, some of them under a high state of cultivation. She has to have many men in her employ. Her name seldom appears in the newspapers, but she is recognized as an important factor in the development of her state and of the Southwest.

Through the "Daughters of the Confederacy" and other orders of this class the women of the South have been doing much for the upbuilding of their localities. In the many national organizations like the "Daughters of the American Revolution" and its twin, the "Colonial Dames," "Daughters of Signers of the Declaration" and many religious and temperance societies of the Southern members have associated themselves with those of the whole country, and have contributed toward making the South better appreciated in the North, and thus minimized sectional passions and tragedies. A strong venture in the same direction is the "Mount Vernon Association," which was founded in 1856, and which, necessarily, includes Southern and Northern women.

Among the Southern women who have been conspicuous in these orders are: Miss Amelia Cunningham, of South Carolina; Mrs. Lizzie Henderson, of Greenwood, Mississippi; Mrs. Annie Booth McKinney, of Knoxville, Tennessee; Mrs. Roger Pryor, already mentioned, Mrs. Lawson Peel, of Atlanta; Mrs. Rebecca Calhoun Pickens Bacon, of Charleston; Mrs. Cornelia Branch Stone, of Galveston; Mrs. Andrew W. Dowdell, of Opelika, Alabama; Mrs. George H. Wilson, of Louisville, and Mrs. R. C. Cooley, of Jacksonville, Florida. In the work of reunion Mrs. Virginia Frazer Boyle, of Memphis, novelist, poet and club-woman, has written "Odes of Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln."

Says Mrs. Myrta Lockett Avary, "True to her past, the South is not living in it. A wonderful future is before her. She is richer than the whole United States at the beginning of the War of Secession. She is the land of balm and bloom and bird songs, of the hand and the open door." In the aggregation of this spirit of hopefulness, courage and progressiveness of the New South the women have indeed been a powerful influence.

Sarah C Acheson

Mrs. Sarah C. Acheson, public-spirited woman of Texas, should be remembered as gratefully by that state as are her ancestors by the nation at large. She was descended on the paternal side from English and Dutch families, who settled in Virginia, 1600, and on the maternal side from Colonel George Morgan, who had charge of Indian affairs under Washington with headquarters at Fort Pitt and of whom Jefferson in a letter still in possession of the family says, "He first gave me notice of the mad project of that day" meaning the Aaron Burr treason. Among Mrs. Acheson's ancestors should be mentioned Colonel William Duane, of Philadelphia, editor of the Philadelphia "Aurora" during the Revolution. Mrs. Acheson's girlhood was spent in Washington, Pennsylvania, where she was born February 20, 1844. And there, in 1863, she was married to Captain Acheson, then on General Myer's staff, the marriage taking place when the captain was on furlough with a gunshot wound in the face. He left for the front ten days after, encouraged by his young wife. Doctor and Mrs. Acheson moved to Texas in 1872, and during their residence there Mrs. Acheson has been a moral force, her influence being strongly felt, not only in the city where she resides, but throughout the state. Texas with all the blows which have come to its welfare is a place to bring out heroic deed. Mrs. Acheson has displayed spirit of a kind that the world seldom sees. When a cyclone struck the village of Savoy many of its inhabitants were badly wounded, some were killed, others made homeless. But Mrs. Acheson reached them as speedily as train could take her and she acted as nurse and as special provider for the suffering. She gave three years of active service to the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and she was state president at a time when a strong leader was greatly needed to guide their bark into a haven of financial safety. The world's progress in social, scientific and religious reform is not only an open but a well-read book to her, and in the evening of her long active life she has become an ardent worker for woman's suffrage.

Mary B. Poppenheim

Miss Mary B. Poppenheim was born in Charleston, South Carolina, of South Carolina ancestry for six generations on both sides, her forebears having migrated to South Carolina from Bavaria and Ireland prior to the American Revolution.

She was graduated from Vassar College with the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1888, holding the position of vice-president of the entire student body and president of the Art Club at the time of her graduation. Miss Poppenheim made a special study of American History at Vassar College under the direction of Professor Lucy Salmon. Miss Poppenheim organized the Historical Department of the South Carolina Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and was historian from 1899- 1905, resigning to become state president of the South Carolina Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which office she held from 1905- 1907 (limit of term). When historian of the South Carolina Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy she was one of the compilers and editors of "South Carolina Women in the Confederacy," 2 vols., published by the South Carolina Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1903 and 1907. Miss Poppenheim was historian of the Charleston Chapter of the United Division of the Confederacy for three years, and was also a member of the Historical Committee of the United Daughters of the Confederacy for three years. She is a charter member of the Vassar Alumnae Historical Society and was one of the first five women to become members of the South Carolina Historical Society, of which she has been a member since 1899. Miss Poppenheim is chairman of the General United Daughters of the Confederacy Education Committee (organization representing 50,000 women) serving a third term, and also chairman of the South Carolina Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy Committee, and member of the Board of Directors of the Charleston Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Miss Poppenheim is the literary editor of 'The Keystone," the official organ of the club women, and the Daughters of the Confederacy of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi and Florida, which position she has held since the establishment of "The Keystone," June, 1899.

Miss Poppenheim organized the Intercollegiate Club of South Carolina, 1899, and has been its president ever since. She is a member of the Ladies' Benevolent Society (organized 1813) and has been its recording secretary since 1896.

A member of the Rebecca Motte Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution.
A charter member of the South Eastern Branch, Vassar Alumni Association.
A charter member of the Vassar Alumnae Historical Society.
A charter member of the Century Club.
A charter member of the Civic Club.
A charter member of the South Carolina Audubon Society.
A charter member of the Young Women's Christian Association.
On the Board of the Ladies' Memorial Society and Woman's Exchange
She holds membership in all of these now. Miss Poppenheim was chairman of the Literature Committee of the General Federation of Women's Clubs 1906- 1908, and was in charge of the Literature Session of the Boston Biennial.

Miss Poppenheim has written for various magazines along historical lines and has traveled extensively in Europe.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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