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Women's History Month: Trailblazers in Virginia & Beyond


March is Women’s History Month! In addition to our All Henrico Reads title, The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford, to celebrate, we’re browsing hundreds of inspiring narratives about women, including Virginia’s own female trailblazers, in our extensive collection of biographies, nonfiction, and databases. Read on to learn more!

You’ll find several female voices in this year’s All Henrico Reads title, The Many Daughters of Afong Moy by Jamie Ford, which tells the story of one family through multiple generations of women. Read about Afong Moy, the first-known Chinese woman to enter the United States. Or take a deeper look at the real-life history behind the characters’ stories including the Barbary Plague in San Francisco, the Flying Tigers of WWII, and the rise and fall of the women-founded dating app, Siren, in our NewsBank database.

In addition to these stories, we encourage you to explore Virginia’s own incredible women. The Virginia Women in History project, founded by the Library of Virginia, is a great place to start your search.  Then, head to our collection and databases to learn more! Below are just a few of the amazing women from Virginia’s past and present:

  • Cockacoeske was chief of the Pamunkey from 1656 until her death around 1686. Her diplomatic skills and strong leadership united tribes and were pivotal in her negotiations with the English. She demanded safety for her people, legal protection through civil courts, and hunting and land rights. Read more about Cockacoeske through our Explora Public Libraries
  • Elizabeth Van Lew (1818 – 1900) was a Richmond resident who remained loyal to the United States after Virginia’s secession. She became the most effective Union spy in the capital of the Confederacy and provided critical intelligence about Confederate troops. She was later appointed the postmaster of Richmond, the first woman to fill the role. Learn more about Elizabeth Van Lew in our collection.
  • Ellen Glasgow (1873 – 1945) was a writer and Richmond native who won a Pulitzer Prize for her final novel, In This Our Life. She was also deeply committed to women’s voting rights and established the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia.
  • Virginia Randolph (1874 – 1958) was a Richmond native who pioneered education initiatives for Black students throughout Henrico County and across the South for over five decades. Today, the Virginia Randolph Education Center provides academic and behavioral services to students with disabilities. Learn more about Virginia Randolph’s contributions in our Notable Henricoans and Biography in Context.
  • Edna Lewis (1916 – 2006) was a culinary icon from Freetown, a community in Orange, Virginia, that was originally settled by emancipated slaves. Lewis brought Southern cooking to the forefront and advocated for fresh, seasonal ingredients years before the farm-to-table movement. She won numerous honors, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance. Find her cookbooks in our collection.
  • Mildred Loving (1939 – 2008) fought for the legalization of interracial marriage. After several unsuccessful court battles, her case was finally heard by the Supreme Court. In 1967, the Court unanimously ruled in her favor, legalizing interracial marriage. Learn more about Mildred Loving and her family in our collection. 
  • Missy Elliott (1971) is a Grammy award-winning songwriter, producer, and musical artist from Portsmouth, Virginia. Her unique, futuristic sound has influenced several rap and R&B artists. She was the first female rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and was recently announced as a 2023 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee. Read more about Missy Elliott’s impact on hip-hop and listen to her music on Hoopla.
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