Rural Entrepreneur Honored in new Women’s Monument

Laura CopenhaverA moment 10 years in the making occurred Oct. 14 when seven bronze statues of Virginia women were unveiled in Capitol Square.

The statues are the first of 12 that will form the Virginia Women’s Monument, the nation’s first installation on the grounds of a state capitol to showcase the full range of achievements and contributions made by women. Voices from the Garden also features a wall of honor inscribed with the names of 230 notable women.

“For far too long, we have overlooked the transformative contributions of women and other underrepresented groups to the history of this country and this commonwealth,” Gov. Ralph Northam proclaimed at the dedication. “I am proud that with the addition of this women’s monument to Capitol Square, we are finally telling a more complete story about Virginia.”

Among the seven statues was one of Laura Lu Scherer Copenhaver, a Smyth County agricultural entrepreneur. Virginia Farm Bureau Federation donated $100,000 to the Virginia Capitol Foundation to support installation of the Copenhaver statue.

VFBF board member and Tazewell County farmer Emily Edmondson, who supported funding of the Copenhaver statue, drove from Southwest Virginia to attend the unveiling. “This is a monument that is long overdue,” she said. Edmondson brought her 9-year-old grandchildren to the ceremony to witness history firsthand.

Mary Margaret Whipple, vice chairman of the Women’s Monument Commission and a former state senator, said the monument was created “to honor real women who did real things in this commonwealth.”

Copenhaver, who died in 1940 at age 72, was an early member of the Farm Bureau and served as its director of information. She also coordinated the production of textiles out of her home, and hired women to craft home goods. Rosemont textiles, which were sold through a mail-order catalog, attracted customers throughout the U.S. and in Asia, Europe and South America. After Copenhaver’s death, the business was incorporated as Laura Copenhaver Industries and operated until 2012.

Other statues in the monument plaza depict Pamunkey chief Cockacoeske, who signed the Treaty of Middle Plantation in 1677; Mary Draper Ingles, a Southwest Virginia frontierswoman; Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly, a Dinwiddie County slave who earned her freedom and became a successful seamstress; Ann Burras Layden, one of Virginia’s earliest settlers; Virginia Estelle Randolph, a child of former slaves who became a world-renowned educator; and Adele Clark, an artist and founder of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia.

After seeing the monument unveiled, VFBF Women’s Committee Chairman Faye Hundley of Essex County called it an impressive installation, adding, “I’m excited that Farm Bureau could help fund it.”

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