Important Women in Loudoun's History

Important Women in Loudoun's History

* Margaret Mercer (1791-1846): In 1839, Mercer bought the Belmont Plantation from the Ludwell Lee estate in order to establish a progressive Christian school for women. She sought knowledge about medicine, agriculture, public health and theology, during a time when it was believed to be unsuitable for women to pursue such topics. A strong opponent of slavery, Mercer was co-founder of the African resettlement movement in Loudoun. She saw that her black employees were taught to read, write and were welcomed to worship. She raised funds for the education of young African-Americans to send them to Liberia as missionaries and settlers. In 1841, she had the first Belmont Chapel built. She is buried beneath the chancel of the chapel.

* Elizabeth Osborn Lewis Carter (1796-1885): A widow, Carter married George Carter, owner of the Oatlands Plantation, at the age of 39. After 10 years of marriage, Carter was widowed again and left with the responsibility of running the plantation. She managed Oatlands during the antebellum years and the Civil War. She was known for entertaining southern military leaders during the war years. Her diaries from the early portion of the war tracked the battles fought in Loudoun and life of the Confederate soldiers camped on Oatlands' grounds.

* Rose O'Neal Greenhow (1817-1864): Greenhow is credited with warning the Confederate government about the Union's plan for the Civil War's First Battle of Manassas, guaranteeing a Southern victory. Celebrated for her valuable service to the Confederacy, Greenhow's life started simply enough, in Port Tobacco, Md. She married Robert Greenhow, a doctor and author, in 1935 and had four children. It was her role as a celebrated hostess that allowed her to overhear important war secrets. In 1861, she was placed under house arrest by Washington authorities, but by 1862 was back on the Confederate front lines. In August 1863, she ran the blockade to England and France as an agent of the government. When returning from England in September 1864, the boat Greenhow was traveling on was attacked. In order to protect documents she had for Jefferson Davis, she escaped in a smaller boat, but drown when the boat capsized.

* Loretta Janeta Velazquez (1842-1997): The only proof that Velazquez was at the Battle of Ball's Bluff is her own account of her actions, but her enlistment as a man in the Confederate army has reached mythic status. The Cuban-born Velazquez married an American army officer at the age of 13 and had three children. By the time the Civil War broke out, all three of her children had died and she convinced her husband to join the Confederate army. When he was killed, according to her account, she disguised herself as Lt. Harry T. Buford and made her way to Virginia where she took part in the Battle of First Manassas. Later she claimed to have been at the Battle of Ball's Bluff with the 8th Virginia Regiment. Whether her story is true or not, she is remembered as one of the first Hispanic soldiers in the army.

* Ida Lee Rust (1840-1921): Ida Lee Rust was known mostly for being a "representative of the highest type of Virginia gentlewoman," according to her obituary in 1921. The woman, for whom Ida Lee Park was named, married Armistead Thomson Mason Rust and raised 11 children. They lived on an estate known as the Rockland, north of Leesburg on Route 15, which was given to the couple by her husband's father, Gen. George Rust. Her descendants donated the land where both Ida Lee Park and the Rust Library are now located in honor of her memory.

* Anna Hedrick (1900-1993): Known as "Miss Anna," Hedrick was one of the first female lawyers in Virginia when she passed the bar in 1930. As a lawyer, she became a substitute judge in Loudoun. In addition to working as an attorney and judge, Hedrick was a noted horsewoman who first rode with the Rock Creek Hounds at the age of 21. After World War II, she became Joint Master of the Loudoun hunt.

* Marie Moton Medley-Howard (1900-1992): Born in Leesburg, Medley-Howard attended Walker's School of Cosmetology and opened a beauty shop near her hometown. An outspoken leader in the local civil rights movement, she spoke regularly at meetings of the County-Wide League and the NAACP on the importance of education in gaining civil rights. After World War II, she worked with the NAACP to get returning veterans to register to vote. She also led the fight to force the Loudoun County Board of Education to improve standards for African-American students.

* Vinton Liddell Pickens (1900-1994): Pickens was a nationally-known artist, whose work hung in art museums across the county. Having moved to Loudoun in 1934, Pickens was a political activist who is credited with keeping billboards from taking over the county's roads. During her life she admitted to cutting down many road signs in her efforts to keep Loudoun beautiful. In 1944, she founded the Loudoun County Sketch Club, which still exists today. Her home at Janelia Farm, where she lived until her death, is now the location of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

* Frances Hazel Reid (1900-1994): The namesake of one of Leesburg's elementary schools, Reid worked at the Loudoun Times Mirror for 72 years, where she started as a reporter and worked her way up to associate publisher. She was a historian and collector of the old newspapers of Loudoun County, helping to preserve the history of the county. She was a charter member of the Lee Chapter United Daughters of the Confederacy in Purcellville and founding member of the Loudoun Business and Professional Women's Club and director of the Loudoun County Historical Society from 1970 until her death.

* Rosa Lee Carter (1904-1999): A dedicated educator, Carter was born in Bluemont and began her teaching career in Loudoun in 1927 at Powell's Grove. While teaching, she noticed many differences between black and white schools in the county. Teaching in schools with no water, no heat and no money, Carter still strove to provide a quality education for her students. She created a library in her classroom and worked tirelessly to find ways to educate children even without ample funds. She worked in the county school system until her death in 1999 and, this fall, will be the namesake of the county's newest elementary school.