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Beyond Maggie Walker: 6 Other Richmond Women from the Turn of the Century

February 12, 2018

While Maggie Walker is worthy of praise and admiration, many other women had great effects on late 1800s/early 1900s Richmond  who are often overlooked. Here are just 5 examples of women we hope to focus more closely on in the future.


1. Ora E. Brown Stokes


Ora E. Brown was born in Chester, VA and grew up in Fredericksburg, the daughter of Rev. James E. Brown, most commonly known as Booker T. Washington’s first Sunday School Teacher. He passed his love of learning onto his daughter. During her lifetime she held the scholastic records at every institution she attended, graduating from Fredericksburg Public High School at the age of 13. She was sent on scholarship to the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institution at Petersburg (now Virginia State University) which she graduated from at the age of 16. After graduation she became a teacher, one of the few professions open to her at the time.

She married Rev. W. H. Stokes who became the pastor of Richmond’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. As the First Lady of Ebenezer Baptist Church she was integral in starting numerous initiatives and organizations including the Richmond Neighborhood Association, a social work organization that had a Girl’s Home, an Orphanage and put her in a position to become a Probation Officer for the Court. She was a member of numerous boards including being a trustee of Hartshorn Memorial College.


2. Dr. Addie Beatrice Gatewood Williams


Addie Williams attended school in Richmond before, like Ora Stokes, studying at the predecessor of Virginia State University. She also went on to get a special diploma from the Teacher’s College at Columbia University and in 1921 received a D. D. S. from Howard University. She worked as both a stenographer at publishing house and then as teacher and supervisor for the Richmond Public Schools.

She was a life long learner taking Latin and Spanish courses, music classes, and Science classes. She is said to be the first female dentist in Virginia.

3. Lizzie Lunsford Fentress Stanard


     Lizzie Stanard attended Richmond public schools and then went on to Hartshorn Memorial College.

     She was very musical, being the organist for the St. Phillips Protestant Episcopal Church for over 25 years.

She was the Grand Worthy Secretary of the Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers as well as the president of the Richmond Chapter of the NAACP.


4. Josephine Turpin Washington


     Josephine Turpin was born in Goochland but her parents moved to Richmond soon after her birth. She attended Richmond Public Schools and then attended Richmond Theological Institute which for a short term before the establishment of Hartshorn accepted a few female students. She also worked as an assistant teacher while taking classes. However, since she was teaching she missed some classes she needed to graduate and instead of taking an exam instead she decided to transfer to Howard University.

     While at Howard she worked as a copyist for Frederick Douglass. She went on to become a journalist and poet.

5. Lucy Ann Henry Coles
6. Harriette Estelle
Harris Pressley  



Lucy Coles moved to Richmond at the age of 10 and entered the public schools. She attended Hartshorn Memorial College for a short time before marrying Rev. J. J. Coles. She left with Coles, as well as the Colleys and the Pressleys (see below) as missionaries to Africa where she taught school.

Harriette, or Hattie as she was called, was born in Buckingham County, VA but moved to Richmond with an aunt when young. She attended Richmond Public Schools and like Josephine Turpin Washington, attended Richmond Theological Institute as a student/teacher.

She married fellow student Rev. James Henry Pressley and soon after the couple sailed to Africa to be missionaries. Her husband became gravely sick soon after their arrival as did their newborn daughter. In letters from their fellow missionary, W. W. Colley, back to Charles Corey, then President of Richmond Institute, Colley talks of James Henry Pressley’s sickness

All the missionaries stand the acclimation better than Bros Presley; the Fever effected his liver and this so feighten [frightened?] him that he has been deranged completely for nearly two months. He talks of nothing but “home” – he does not and has not known me for nearly two months. He knows me by a new name and as his “best friend…He is now as helpless as a baby.

Another member of the party, J. J. Coles added , “He sometimes knows not his own wife, she too is helpless, he has but little or no control of his mind.” The infant girl did not survive and Hattie Pressley herself soon succumbed to the illness as well, dying “like a hero in the heat of battle”.

This of course is only the smallest sampling of the remarkable women who made up Richmond at the time. Make sure to keep an eye out for future posts to learn more.

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