Hundreds attend Virginia Women’s Monument groundbreaking on Capitol Square

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The first phase of the Virginia Women’s Monument is underway after a groundbreaking on Capitol Square Monday morning.

The monument — named Voices from the Garden — will honor more than 400 years of contributions made by women to the commonwealth.

The first phase is a memorial plaza. It will eventually be lined with a dozen bronze statues of women who helped lead the way. That includes a newspaper editor, a suffragist and an education pioneer.

There will also be a glass Wall of Honor with the names of hundreds of other noteworthy women.

Virginia Secretary of Administration Nancy Rodrigues attended the groundbreaking ceremony with her two-year-old granddaughter, Celeste.

“I would not be a member of a cabinet had it not been for the achievements of these women who really paved the way for me,” said Rodrigues. “What I hope is that she will realize that she can achieve anything because those women have paved the way for her.”

Rodrigues said of the 15 recognizable statues of individuals on Capitol Square, one is of a woman.

“Today, we’re going to correct that,” she said.

Voices from the Garden will the the first monument of its kind on the grounds of a state Capitol recognizing the contributions of women across four centuries.

“At a very difficult time that we have in our nation today, as we hear about different issues as it relates to women, I think it’s appropriate that we here in Virginia are leading the way,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Former Virginia first lady Susan Allen said $1.7 million has been raised for the project, which is being funded privately. Allen said they are hoping to raise an additional $150,000 soon in order to meet a Cabell Foundation grant. Each bronze statue is expected to cost about $200,000.

“If only three of you in the audience today pledged $50,000, we would make that grant,” she said as the crowd laughed. “Terry, I bet you know somebody.”

“Yeah, your husband,” the governor quickly replied.

Senate Clerk Susan Clarke Schaar said planning for the monument began a decade ago.

“To learn the stories has been fascinating for me,” said Schaar. “We just wish that Em Bowles Locker Aslop, who was the proponent of this, could have been here with us today, but we know that in spirit she is here,” said Schaar.

Aslop passed away in 2015.

Those in attendance Monday believe the monument will continue to inspire for years to come.

“I hope every little girl who walks into Capitol Square into that monument says, ‘I can do anything because they did it,” said Rodrigues.

The dedication ceremony is planned for Oct. 14, 2019.

To learn more about the event, click HERE.

Click HERE for more on the Women’s Monument Commission.


Read more about the 12 women who will have bronze statues. These biographies are from the Women’s Monument Commission website.

Ann Burras Laydon (c. 1594-after 1625) – Jamestown. Ann Burras, a 14-year-old maid to Mistress Forrest, arrived in Jamestown in 1608 aboard the Mary and Margaret. Ann and Mistress Forrest were the first two female settlers in the colony. When Mrs. Forrest died, Ann married carpenter John Laydon, in what is believed to be the first wedding held in the colony. She and John had 4 daughters—Virginia, Alice, Katherine and Margaret. She was employed as a seamstress and at one point Gov. Thomas Dale is reported to have ordered her beating because of the unsatisfactory quality of the shirts she had made. As a result of the punishment, she suffered a miscarriage. Ann survived both this harsh treatment and the winter of 1609-1610, known as the “starving time”, demonstrating her resilience and fortitude.

Cockacoeske (fl. 1656- d. 1686) – Jamestown. Cockacoeske, (pronounced Coke a cow ski) was a Pamunkey chief, and descendant of Opechancanough, brother of the paramount chief Powhatan. Upon the death of her husband Totopotomoy, chief of the Pamunkey circa 1649-1656, Cockacoeske became queen of the Pamunkey. In 1676, a few months before Bacon’s Rebellion, the insurrection’s leader Nathaniel Bacon and his followers attacked the Pamunkey, killing some of Cockacoeske’s people and taking others captive. An astute politician, Cockacoeske signed the Treaty of Middle Plantation on May 29, 1677, reuniting, under her authority, several tribes that had not been under Powhatan domination since 1646, as well as establishing the Pamunkey Reservation. Cockacoeske ruled the Pamunkey for 30 years until her death in 1686.

Mary Draper Ingles (c.1732-1815) – Southwest Virginia. Moved as a teenager to Virginia as a part of the Scots- Irish migration. In July 1755, Mary was taken captive by Shawnee Indians during the French and Indian War. She escaped, traveling 600 miles back to her home. She established the Ingles Ferry which was vital to her rural community.

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington (1731-1802) – Fairfax. While she was not referred to as First Lady, she was the first woman to hold the position, during George Washington’s presidency, and will serve as the representative for the wives of all eight Virginia-born presidents.

Clementina Bird Rind (1740-1774) – Williamsburg. Took over the editorship and management of the Virginia Gazette, after the death of her husband; under her leadership, the newspaper remained official printer of the colony.

Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1818-1907) – Dinwiddie. A slave who bought her freedom, she became Mary Todd Lincoln’s seamstress and confidant during the White House years. She established the Contraband Relief Association, which provided support for recently freed slaves and wounded soldiers.

Sally Louisa Tompkins (1833-1916) – Mathews Co. Captain Sally Tompkins established Robertson Hospital in Richmond to treat wounded soldiers when few, if any, women held the top administrative position. Her hospital had the lowest death rate of any during the Civil War due to her skill and standards.

Maggie L. Walker (1864-1934) – Richmond. The first woman to charter a bank in the United States, with the founding of the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in Richmond.

Sarah G. Boyd Jones (1866-1905) – Richmond. One of the first women to pass the Virginia Medical Examining Board’s examination. She helped found a medical association for African-American doctors, opening a hospital and nursing school in 1903 which ultimately became Richmond Community Hospital.

Laura Lu Copenhaver (1868-1940) – Smyth Co./Marion. Expanded southwestern Virginia’s agricultural economy, as director of information for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, by emphasizing cooperative marketing of farm products to improve the standard of living for farm families. She established Rosemont Industries.

Virginia Estelle Randolph (1875-1958) – Henrico. Virginia developed a nationally-recognized approach to education, creating a successful formula based on practicality, creativity, and involvement from parents and the community.

Adele Goodman Clark (1882-1983)-Richmond. Active suffragist who became president of the League of Women Voters in 1921. Adele was instrumental in the establishment of the Virginia Art Commission, She is considered to be one of the founders of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

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