Mar 15, 2024 - News

A look at Virginia's history-making women

A statue of Maggie Walker surrounded by people.

The Maggie L. Walker statue during the unveiling in 2017. Image: Courtesy of the Valentine

In celebration of Women's History Month, we're taking a look at some of Virginia's legendary, history-making women.

Elizabeth Van Lew

Van Lew was a Richmond elite and abolitionist in the mid-1800s and a Union spy who ran an espionage network and helped prisoners of war escape.

Maggie L. Walker

Walker was a civil rights activist born in Richmond and became the first Black woman in the U.S. to start and become president of a bank.

Fun fact: Walker's great great granddaughter, Liza Mickens, lives in Richmond.

Eleanor Parker Sheppard

Parker Sheppard was a Georgia native who went on to become the first woman ever elected to Richmond City Council and Richmond's first female mayor in 1962. She also helped create VCU.

Dorothy Height

Height was a Richmond-born civil rights activist who helped organize the March on Washington in 1963, where she stood next to Martin Luther King Jr.

  • Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the 1990s.

Elizabeth Guzmán and Hala Ayala

They became the first two Latinas elected to the Virginia legislature in 2017. Both beat Republican incumbents that year.

Missy Elliott

Elliott is from Portsmouth and became the first woman rapper inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2023.


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