Judy Ward

Club member and DCC educator Judy Ward shares little known facts about many lesser-known women in American History. The club members were amazed at her vast knowledge of all sorts of interesting women who are not normally recognized for their contributions to history.

The Halifax Woman’s Club met on Oct. 8 at the Masonic Lodge in Halifax with 47 members in attendance. President Judy Wagner called the meeting to order and welcomed members and the two guests in attendance, Marcia Mosby and Sheila Irby.

New club members for this year - Linda Mercer, Nancy McCormick, Martha Coates and Lindsey Ryan - were introduced by other club members, and a health update on the scholarship recipient for this year, Caroline Laughorn, was given.

The program, “Lesser Known Ladies of America,” was given by Judy Ward, adjunct faculty member at Danville Community College.

Ward had presented to the club last year her interesting lesser-known bits of knowledge about several American First Ladies, and she was invited back again this year to continue sharing her little-known facts about other women in history.

The women she discussed this year were fascinating for their accomplishments. The first was Sybil Ludington, who was a woman whose father was in the militia in the 1700s. Ludington rode to tell others the “British are coming,” yet she rode for 40 miles on horseback, which was twice the distance that Paul Revere rode. Sadly, she had no poem written about her.

The second woman Ward discussed was Deborah Sampson, the only woman given a full military pension for fighting in the American Revolutionary War. She was sold at age 10 as a servant to another household, and she later enlisted in the Army by passing as a man.

In 1781 she led the infantry in combat, was later shot in the thigh and treated herself so as not to be discovered, but later became ill and was taken unconscious to the hospital, where her disguise was discovered. She was given an honorable discharge from the Army and granted a military pension, the first female to ever receive one.

Ward then discussed Eliza Pinckney, who at a young age already was running a plantation and raising her sister in South Carolina when her father was called away. She decided to grow a new crop, indigo, which gives what was needed for making the desirable blue dye. She started shipping the indigo to English, 5,000 pounds at first and later up to 130,000 pounds. She revolutionized this new crop in America for farmers.

She was a patriot during the war but later died of breast cancer. George Washington was one of the pallbearers at her funeral.

The fourth woman Ward shared information about was Catherine Greene, married to Nathaniel Greene, and she was a friend of Martha Washington. Her husband was head of the forces in the South during the Revolutionary War, and he had to pay to outfit his troops, because there was no other money to outfit them with, which impoverished his family.

When he died, she pleaded for reimbursement from the new government and rented out a room in her house to Eli Whitney, where she helped him with some of his work with his invention, the cotton gin.

The women also learned about Maria Mitchell, the first woman astronomer, who discovered a comet. She was a professor of astronomy at Vassar, but women were largely not allowed to be astronomers then, so she did not receive the credit for her work that she should have.

The final woman Ward discussed was Helen Dortch Longstreet, who had many fascinating careers for a woman in the late 1800s. She was a news reporter, a postmistress, a state librarian, a conservation enthusiast and an advocate for building a monument to the slaves in America, but the government denied her request. She also drove a Model T across the country campaigning and was described as “frail but vivacious.” She ran for the governor of Georgia when she was in her 80s but lost the race, yet she lived to be 99.

After Ward’s talk, the women enjoyed refreshments by hostesses Sallie Anne Powell, Laura Kilpatrick and Helen Reiter.