Augusta Library Exhibit: ‘Virginia Women in History’

Augusta County Library 2By Lynn R. Mitchell

The Augusta County Library at Fishersville announced a new exhibit on loan from the Library of Virginia that will be on display through October 23:

The Augusta County Library will host the Virginia Women in History exhibit through October 23. The exhibit was developed by the Library of Virginia as part of its annual celebration of the accomplishments of the state’s women, both past and present.

The eight women featured include the first African American woman to become a certified public accountant in Virginia, the first woman to preside over the House of Delegates’ powerful budget-writing committee, a doctor, and a poet who uses language to raise awareness of social. The exhibit is at the library in Fishersville as part of its year-long tour of cultural institutions across the state.

Sandra Treadway of the Library of Virginia says, “Women have played an integral part in Virginia from its beginnings, yet their contributions have often been overlooked in the history books. Until well into the twentieth century, written histories tended to focus on the historically male-dominated fields of government and politics, the military, and large-scale property ownership to the virtual exclusion of all other venues of leadership or achievement.”

Each year, the Library of Virginia chooses women from across the state and all walks of life to be recognized. The women honored in the 2015 exhibit are:

Nancy Melvina “Vinnie” Caldwell (August 4, 1868–February 11, 1956), Carroll County. The daughter of a farmer, Caldwell became involved in local politics and won election to the House of Delegates from Carroll County.

Nikki Giovanni (b. 1943), Blacksburg. A devoted teacher widely acclaimed for her verse, Giovanni uses bold language to address social issues based on her experiences as an African American woman.

Ruth Coles Harris (b. 1928), Richmond. Harris passed the two-day examination to become a certified public accountant at a time when there were fewer than 100 African American CPAs in the nation. She became the first black woman in Virginia to be certified. Harris is also this year’s recipient of the VABPW Foundation Business Leadership Award.

Dorothy Shoemaker McDiarmid (October 22, 1906–June 8, 1994), Fairfax County. An able and highly respected legislator, McDiarmid was one of the most influential women ever elected to the House of Delegates.

Rebekah Dulaney Peterkin (September 24, 1849–July 26, 1891), Richmond. The daughter of an Episcopal minister, Peterkin advocated creation of a hospital to provide acute care free of charge to the working poor.

Vivian W. Pinn (b. 1941), Lynchburg. In 1963, Pinn entered the medical school at the University of Virginia and graduated as the only woman and the only African American in her class. In 1982 she became chair of the department of pathology at the Howard University College of Medicine—the first African American woman to hold such a position in the United States.

Elizabeth Bray Allen Smith Stith (ca. 1692–February 22, 1774), Isle of Wight County. A planter and philanthropist, Stith established a £140 trust fund in 1753 to create a free school for six poor boys and girls in Smithfield.

Karenne Wood (b. 1960), Fluvanna County. A Virginia Indian scholar and advocate, Wood helped ensure that the history and culture of native Virginians were acknowledged during the 2007 commemoration of Virginia’s colonization.

The exhibit can be viewed during the library’s regular hours, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday. The Augusta County Library is located at 1759 Jefferson Hwy. in Fishersville.

To learn more about the Virginia Women in History exhibit, go to or contact the Augusta County Library in at 540-885-3961 or 540-949-6354 or visit the library’s website

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