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by OneTon

In the footsteps of Ida B Wells

December 11, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Intellectual history, Political history

Ida B Wells is remembered throughout American Civil Rights history for many reasons. In this instance, Mrs. Wells is seen through the acts of a Kentucky woman activist. After losing both of her parents to the Yellow Fever Epidemic, Mrs. Wells took the responsibilities of raising her remaining siblings while juggling her two careers of teaching and being a leader in womens rights.

A native of Webster, County, Mrs. Nelda Lambert Barton-Collings (born in 1929) has also strived to enforce equality in America by serving her community, state, and nation as a leader in Kentucky’s fight for equal rights. After her husband passed, she too took the responsibility of raising five children while balancing the fight for womens rights and keeping her deceased husbands business afloat. Over her lifetime she has been appointed by American role models to lead many different government positions such as:

“A five-time Kentucky delegate/28 year Committee woman to the Republican National Committee, she was the first woman from Kentucky to address the RNC and call the meeting to order.  She was the first woman elected Chair of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and served as the Secretary-Treasurer of the National Institute of International Affairs.  President Ronald Reagan appointed her to the Federal Council on Aging and President George H. W. Bush appointed her to the President’s Council on Rural America.”

by OneTon

Jefferson County Native Shows Determination

December 10, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, 1960s-1970s, Intellectual history, Social history

Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, I was raised by parents who agreed with equality and justice. My mother, Mary Fitzpatrick Singleton, has taught in Catholic elementary schools for more than ten years, while my father, John Alan Singleton, has a degree from the University of Kentucky’s business school and incorporates his scholarly knowledge into each day of work. Both of my parents are role models in my life and help me lead a more respective life of equality. My mother truly reminds me of another special woman from Kentucky as well.

An educator and advocate of womens rights this woman was an extremely important lady in the fight for equality. Lilialyce Akers is a special woman for all Kentuckians to investigate further. Dr. Akers was born in 1927 and has advanced equality in Kentucky since she arrived! As a particpant in the Equal Rights Association (ERA), Dr. Akers displayed her determination for the right of equality in the United States of America.  Akers was also a representative to the UN Commission on Women, and has presented seminars at the UN’s Third and Fourth World Conferences in Kenya and China.

by OneTon

First Woman Dentist in Kentucky

December 1, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Intellectual history

The first woman dentist in Kentucky was born near Warsaw, Kentucky in 1842. This well educated young woman accomplished many obstacles before her death in 1922. Lucy Dupey Montiz had a midlife career change before committing herself to the study of dentistry. A wife, mother, school teacher, and finally a dentist, Mrs. Montiz showed determination as she became Kentucky’s first female dentist.

A graduate from the Cincinnati College of Dental Surgery, Mrs. Montiz, showed courage and an abundant amount of knowledge as she graduated with honors in 1889. Dentistry was primarily a career for males which is why Mrs. Montiz is such an incredible woman in the history of Kentucky. Her feat is more amazing by the fact that she was listed as Kentucky’s only female dentist at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

She was active in dentistry til 1921 and had to remove herself due to health reasons. She passed away a year later. Mrs. Lucy Dupey Montiz was a stunning woman, but was given few awards because of her gender. This author believes thanks is in order for all women who made great strives to better themselves and others around them!

by OneTon

Breckenridge Memory

November 19, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Intellectual history, Political history, Social history

Growing up in any city, it is human nature to memorize street names. I was raised in Louisville, Kentucky for the majority of my twenty two years. I lived in the east end of town, in a prosperous little city called Saint Matthews. I became very knowledgeable of my surroundings and the streets that I was constantly traveling on. Now that I am older and attending the University of Kentucky, I have had the opportunity to meet new and exciting individuals each day. I recently spoke to an older woman who lives in the neighborhood located on Henry Clay’s former Ashland Farm. The lady was a retired teacher who taught history at Breckenridge Elementary. As we spoke, she revealed impressive knowledge of Madeline McDowell Breckenridge who is one of many famous Kentucky women who fought for suffrage in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Once she dropped Mrs. Breckenridge’s name, I immediately remembered Breckenridge Lane in Louisville and finally understood the importance of the name.

Mrs. Breckenridge was born on May 20, 1872 in Woodlake Kentucky. She grew up on the Ashland Farm and was related to Ephraim McDowell and American Civil War Union General Irvin McDowell. Coming from such a distinctive family, she was raised in the spirit of emancipation and social justice. She received an excellent education in Lexington, Kentucky and Farmington, Connecticut. After that she studied from 1890 to 1894 at the State College (University of Kentucky). She married Desha Breckenridge, the editor of the Lexington Herald but never had children. On November 25, 1920, Madeline McDowell Breckenridge passed away due to Tuberculosis.

 In 1908, Breckinridge became chairman of the Kentucky Federation of Women’s Clubs, performing that duty until 1912. She successfully lobbied to allow women to vote in Kentucky school board elections, and helped secure legislation to create a state library commission and a forestry commission. In 1912, Breckinridge became president of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA) succeeding her cousin, Laura Clay, who founded the organization. The association became Kentucky’s leading women’s suffrage organization, advocating for women’s right to vote.

During World War I it became increasingly difficult for women to propagate their cause, as the eyes of the nation were focused on the war. Suffrage members thus increased their effort to re-evoke the interest in women’s rights. Breckinridge traveled across the American South, giving a series of speeches in all major cities there. After a long battle for the right to vote, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which allowed women the right to vote under official constitutional protection, was finally passed by Congress. Its ratification in Kentucky in January 1920 was largely credited to Breckinridge’s efforts. She lived to cast her first and only vote in the November 1920 election, dying that month at the age of 48.

by OneTon

Western Kentucky Woman Changing the Medical Field

October 28, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Social history

               Born near Winchester, Kentucky, in Butler County was a very intelligent woman who was the first registered nurse in Bowling Green, Kentucky. At the age of ten, Ora Porter and her family moved from Butler County to Bowling Green Kentucky, where she graduated from Tuskegee Institute School of Nursing. During her lifetime (1880-1970), she was also an organizer of the George Washington Carver Community Center, a local Interracial Commission after World War II (not to be confused with the World War I era’s Commission on Interracial Cooperation in the deep South that spawned the Southern Regional Council by the 1940s), and an active campaigner for civic improvement.

               At one point Porter was the only registered nurse in Western Kentucky too! She was an extraordinary woman activist during a very important stage in women’s history. Ora Porter’s determination led to one of the most historical events in women’s history. Dating back to the 1800s, many women were not given the chance to show their intelligence, but Ora helped the process of bridging the gap between men and women in the medical field. It is even crazier that the medical field is gender diversified today to the point that there are more women in the nursing field than men! Ora Porter was not the only woman with a drive to become a nurse, but is the noted and celebrated as the first registered nurse in western Kentucky.

“Historical Marker Dedicated,” Warren County Medical Society. http://www.warrencountymedicalsociety.org/Ora%20Porter.htm


“2149 Ora Porter Historical Marker,” Mapping Kentucky History Warren County Markers – CommunityWalk


See also the interviews with Shella Procter and Alice Ruther Procter: “The life of Miss Ora Porter, Warren County’s First Registered Nurse” in the Robert J. Gates Collection, Western Kentucky University Folklife Archives, Bowling Green, Kentucky

by msites

Changing Times & The Pack Horse Librarians

September 21, 2010 in 1920s-30s, Historical Decades, Primary source, Social history

Reading about Kentucky in the 1920s and 1930s (1) revealed what was for me a much unexpected image of a society more in line with an undeveloped third world country than with the home state that I have always known. Although of course by that point Lexington and especially Louisville existed as urban centers, much of the state was rural and agrarian. People were isolated in their small communities and had little communication with or knowledge of the outside world. In eastern parts of the state, people in coal mining towns literally didn’t have roads, much less sanitation. Considering “women’s issues” in this context is difficult, because the isolation meant that women didn’t have many opportunities to unite on their own behalf. Their struggle was more often for the survival of their families than for a change in the relative position of women in society. However, I have come across a few examples of remarkable women who were able to serve as great advocates for their communities and, in so doing, also pave the way for future women.

My favorite is a WPA program in Kentucky called the Pack Horse Librarians. The WPA had initially provided work for men, but eventually reached out to impoverished women, as well. The Pack Horse Librarians were women that delivered books and magazines to coal mining towns and other communities. So-called because they had to travel by mule through undeveloped territory, these women made treacherous journeys through the mountains to deliver literature to people who suffered from widespread illiteracy. Old and young gathered around children’s books to work together to decipher words for the first time, or enjoyed the company of a woman carrier who would stay and read aloud to them (2). This website has some really great photos of women delivering books and reading to people: http://newdeal.feri.org/library/j_1k_bg.htm (3). Despite the rugged trails and the primitive state of the cabins, the women all look strong and proud to be providing the service. This simple program and the women that ran it obviously made a big step in opening these small communities to the world and granting them access to greater opportunities through newfound literacy. At the same time, I love how the women were able to demonstrate such rugged individualism, daring to make dangerous trips alone and gaining independence with their government salaries.

Times were certainly changing, and I think one of common trends in the material we’ve looked at so far is the stark division between the new generation of the ‘20s and ‘30s and the generation of their parents. Prior to the “Roarin’ Twenties” and especially before the New Deal Era, many people in the South were still very isolated and bound to tradition. Mae Street Kidd’s mother, for example, never advanced beyond domestic work and seemed to discourage open discussion about race or gender relations, while her daughter goes on to become a well-educated and vocal proponent for her rights in corporate and political America (4). Likewise, Alice Wilson’s mother Jennie Wilson was born to former slaves and in the video we watched, she recalled early memories of terrible conditions and great oppression, and that dark history shaped her life. Alice, on the other hand, frankly challenged the power system when she and her friends integrated the school (5). Because of the suffrage movement and the New Deal Era, children that grew up in the ‘20s and ‘30s faced a new world with fewer barriers to women and programs (like the Pack Horse Librarians!) that were creating opportunities and increasing contact between people, bringing them together in new ways and setting the stage for the Civil Rights Movement.

1 – Appelt, Kathi. Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky. http://books.google.com/books?id=lZy2mhf-8lUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=%22down+cut+shin+creek%22&source=bl&ots=YK9ByltTrB&sig=cH24e7JtKIYggZFCyM_05fVnfUM&hl=en&ei=iPaYTLPpOcOqlAei-ojhDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCQQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false This is a book which not talks about Pack Horse Librarians, but had a lot of good background info on Kentucky too.

2 – http://www.josephinesjournal.com/pack_horse_librarians.htm article published in Overton County News in Livingston, Tennessee

3 – Photo Library at the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute http://newdeal.feri.org/library/j_1k_bg.htm

4 – Hall, Wade. Passing for Black.

5 – KET “Rest of the Story” video –  http://www.ket.org/civilrights/restofstory.htm

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