Photo courtesy of Carrie Rose Pace
Katie Couric. Wanda Sykes. Sara and Maybelle Carter. Gabrielle Douglas.
Virginia has been home to these household names and countless others. This Women’s History Month, the Greater Richmond Transit Company will honor four Richmond women who have also helped put Virginia on the map.
GRTC will honor Ethel Bailey Furman, Stoner Winslett, Naomi Silverman Cohn and Elizabeth Bermingham Lacy respectively throughout the four weeks of March,. Their names will be highlighted on bus destination header signs, as well as highlighted on GRTC’s website, mobile app and social media.
The idea to recognize Women’s History Month stemmed from honoring Rosa Parks’ birthday every year on Feb. 4. GRTC expanded that annual event into honoring all of Black History Month this past February. Last month was used as a pilot and template to move forward with other nationally recognized months, said Carrie Rose Pace, the public relations manager for GRTC.
“We tried to select from the pool that the Virginia Women in History project already had, and wanted a variety of some who were living and some who were already deceased,” Pace said.
GRTC is utilizing the buses as “moving message billboards” to inform and educate its riders and the community. “We want to make our riders aware that this is a nationally recognized month for a reason,” Pace said.
Here’s what you need to know about these four great Richmond women:
Ethel Bailey Furman (1893-1976) was a pioneering force as one of the first black women to work in Virginia’s architecture industry. Furman studied architecture privately in New York and at the Chicago Technical College. She also worked alongside her father, a contractor, to design houses for local Richmond residents. In the 1920s, Furman was the only woman who attended the Hampton Institute’s annual Builders’ Conference. Furman often had to submit her building plans through the male contractors with whom she worked, but that did not slow her down. She designed an estimated 200 residences and churches in central Virginia, as well as two churches in Liberia.
Stoner Winslett (b. 1958), the founding artistic director of Richmond Ballet, led what was once a small student company in becoming the internationally known professional company that it is today. Richmond Ballet became Virginia’s first professional ballet company in 1984 and was named the State Ballet in 1990. During Winslett’s tenure, the company has toured in cities across the United States, as well as in London, Beijing and Shanghai. Richmond Ballet has thrived under Winslett’s vision of sharing ballet as a unique, athletic, powerful, disciplined and meaningful form of dance.
Naomi Silverman Cohn (1888-1982) left her mark on Virginia through her lobbying and advocacy work. The daughter of Polish immigrants, Cohn was involved in the National Council of Jewish Women, the Richmond League of Women Voters and the Virginia Women’s Council of Legislative Chairmen of State Organizations. Cohn’s work as the executive secretary of the Virginia Consumers’ League led to the passage of a state law in 1938 limiting women’s paid work hours from 70 to 48. The next year she became director of the Division of Women and Children for the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry.
Elizabeth Bermingham Lacy (b. 1945) has had many firsts: the first female deputy attorney general in Virginia, the first female judge on the State Corporation Commission and the first woman to sit on the Supreme Court of Virginia. She earned her law degree from University of Texas in 1982 and her Master of Laws degree from University of Virginia in 1992. Lacy served on the Virginia State Corporation Commission for about four years before Gov. Gerald L. Baliles appointed her to the Supreme Court of Virginia in 1988. She was subsequently elected to two 12-year terms on the court. At the time of her retirement in 2007, three of Virginia's seven Supreme Court justices were women, a feat made possible by Lacy’s trailblazing.
GRTC is accepting local nominations for next year’s Women’s History Month honorees. Email your submission and a biography detailing the individual’s achievements to Marketing@RideGRTC.com.