Virginia Women: Their Lives and Times

Virginia Women: Their Lives and Times

From the Queen of the Pamunkey tribe to Civil War officer and nurse Sally Louisa Tompkins, the Virginia Women presented in Kierner’s and Treadway’s essay collection are well worth knowing about.

Chapter by chapter, researchers share the stories of women who stood out from the crowd. Whether they came from poverty or fabulous wealth, they made their marks, performing acts of charity or diplomacy, spying for their countries’ leaders, or making their way with the odds against them.

The story of Harriet, daughter of Sally Hemings, is here. She had her own life apart from the Jeffersons at Monticello. Indeed, she moved far away to Philadelphia decades before the Civil War, and you will learn what became of her.

Mary Draper Ingles, a young wife and mother captured with her children by the Shawnee during the French and Indian Wars in the 1750s, escaped on foot and traveled more than 400 miles back to her settlement. Unlike most recountings, we learn not only details of the capture and flight to freedom but also what happened to her afterwards and how her life was similar to those of other frontier women.

I recommend these biographical essays be read one or two at a time as they have a somewhat scholarly tone and, perhaps more importantly, each one invites reflection. For every essay, there are sources given should readers wish to learn more.

This is the first volume of a series and concentrates mainly on women up to and including the Civil War period. Volume two was just released and has much more on women who lived in later decades, including the Civil Rights era.

Readers who enjoy Virginia Women may also wish to try Heroines of Mercy Street: The Real Nurses of the Civil War, The Hemingses of Monticello, and A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation.

You can find additional books on our list, CRRL History: Virginia Women.