Author: Tim Brinkley
Every good story has a moment of wonder that connects with the human heart. It is the moment when our compassion is engaged, and we are compelled to champion the characters believing and hoping for the impossible. The history of Petersburg Home for Ladies is such a story, one that leaves us asking. Who were these women who followed their hearts and established a superlative culture of grace, decorum and regard? What is their story? How are their efforts still creating impact when so many others have fallen by the wayside? This is the story of Petersburg Home for Ladies; crafted through providence, laden with heartbreak, challenged through struggles, yet filled with hope and the kind of wisdom only time reveals as brilliance.
Today we have the luxury of experiencing Petersburg Home for Ladies nearly 100 years in the making, but for those who journeyed through the early years and pioneered the ideals which established theLadies Home as the icon of elegant living with exceptional care we have all grown to cherish, one can only image the tenacity and dogged determination it took to believe in that which did not yet exists and to call into reality a process formulated soley in the depths of human responsibility partnered with the compulsion to create the needed changes based on an internal drive to simply do what is right. The characters in our story are incredible, defying the odds and building possibility out of simplicity.
All innovation begins as an idea. The ideas that last are the ones which meet a need in our everyday lives. The best conversations about growth do not start with talk of buildings and policies, but rather begin with names, faces and the story of those in need. Mary Whyte sat on her front porch and pondered the future of her friends and neighbors. What would happen to those who lived alone, who had no children to care for them and who were overwhelmed with the upkeep of homes and daily responsibilities? What she pondered in her heart began to formulate into reality as word spread through the community, committees were established, funds were raised and the abundance of compassion which flowed from her heart became a catalyst of inspiration for all involved.
“At a time when the 19th Amendment, which brough the vote to women, was only five years old, a predominantly female group, without considering itself sexist in any way, set about the business of identifying a need and giving its various talents and energies to meeting that need. It is true that two men were involved in the early meetings, but in neither case did they continue active longer than one year. (Board minutes of January 12, 1926 recorded the resignation of Mr. John L. Branch, who had been serving as chairman of the fund-raising auxiliary. This also is the last date on which Dr. William F. Drewry is officially mentioned.) the burden of decision, continued guidance of development and the continuing responsibility of the Home have been the exclusive province of women.” Hibernia Cuthbert: We Ladies
Charter Members Of The Board of Directors
|Mary Friend (Mrs. Thomas J., “Tucker”) Whyte, President||1925-1955|
|Dr. William F. Drewry, Vice President||1925-1926|
|Miss Mary Roper, Treasurer||1925-|
|Isabella B. Ream (Mrs. Montgomery C.) Jackson, Secretary||1925-1926|
|John L. Branch||1925-1926|
|Annie Watson (Mrs. John Herbert) Claiborne||1925-1954|
|Kate B. (Mrs. Theo A.) Field||1925-1952|
|Conway W. (Mrs. Ashton W.) Gray||1925-1961|
|Alice R. (Mrs. H. Gilbert) Leigh||1925-1927|
|Blanche H.(?) (Mrs. A. L. Lewis)||1925-1930|
|Mary Waller (Mrs. Herbert C.) Lightfoot||1925-1968|
|Susan (?) (Mrs. John) Long||1925-1926|
|Miss Lulie Mcllwaine**||1925-|
|Katherine Jordan Stiles (Mrs. Howard) Nuckols***||1927-|
|Helen (Mrs. Preston L.) Roper||1925-1934|
|Marion (Mrs. Myers) Saal||1925-1944|
|Florence A. (Mrs. Jesse P.) Stephenson||1925-1940|
|**Listed in The Progress Index account of the organizational meeting, this name does not occur again except possibly as a member the fund-raising auxiliary|
|***Mrs. Nuckols was an Honorary Charter Member, becoming an active member in 1927|
Since our inception, Petersburg Home for Ladies has been governed by a volunteer, and chiefly all-female, Board of Directors. As we celebrate Womens’ History Month let us always remember the sacrifices of our founders, and attribute the goodliness of life’s blessings to the steadfastness of their journey. It is from these founding women, all those who have served as past board members and those current Board Member who faithfully invest their time, wisdom, and emotional strength into building our organization, that Petersburg Home for Ladies has been defined. These are the women who tell our story, give meaning to our identity and masterfully craft our future.