Virginia Farm Bureau Federation presented a $100,000 donation to the Virginia Capitol Foundation earlier this year to support installing a statue of Laura Copenhaver of Smyth County in the new Virginia Women’s Monument.
About one-fifth of the donation came from county Farm Bureaus.
The monument, titled Voices from the Garden, is being installed in stages on Richmond’s Capitol Square and is the first of its kind nationwide. It recognizes a wide range of women’s achievements with a dozen life-size bronze statues in a landscaped plaza. It will be dedicated in October.
Copenhaver, who died in 1940 at age 72, was an early member of the Farm Bureau federation and served as its director of information. A proponent of cooperative marketing strategies, she coordinated the production of textiles out of her home, Rosemont, and hired women to craft home goods using local wool. Rosemont’s textiles were sold through a mail-order catalog and 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. It operated until 2012.
Additionally, Copenhaver carried on a family tradition of service to the Lutheran Church. Her advocacy inspired the Women’s Missionary Society of the United Lutheran Church in America to found the Konnarock Training School to provide elementary-level education for children in Smyth County who did not have access to other public schools.
VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor said Copenhaver’s legacy, and her service to both Southwest Virginia and to Farm Bureau, are considerable, though not necessarily recognized statewide. “We’re extremely pleased to help share her story and help create this lasting tribute.”
Emily F. Edmondson, a Tazewell County cattle producer who serves on the VFBF board of directors, called Copenhaver a visionary. “Women in Virginia have always been crucial to the success of agriculture. They are now the fastest-growing segment of new Virginia farmers,” Edmondson noted. “The Virginia Farm Bureau is richer for Laura Copenhaver’s early efforts, and we strive to make a better environment for all Virginians and especially its farmers.”
Edmondson, who also serves as rector of the Christ Episcopal Church in Marion, said she looks forward to visiting the completed monument with her daughter, daughter-in-law and granddaughter “so they can see and appreciate what they as women can do for Virginia’s future.
“This monument looks to the past and recognizes many of the women who made a positive impact for others. But this monument will also inspire women to keep striving for excellence, bravery, love and service for family and community, so that Virginia becomes an even better place to live.”
Other women to be honored with statues in the monument are Jamestown colonist Anne Burras Laydon; Pamunkey chief Cockacoeske; frontierswoman Mary Draper Ingles; first lady Martha Washington; Colonial printer Clementina Rind; seamstress and author Elizabeth Keckly; Civil War hospital administrator Sally L. Tompkins; entrepreneur and civil rights leader Maggie L. Walker; physician Sarah G. Jones; educator Virginia E. Randolph; and suffragist and artist Adele Clark.
The names of Copenhaver’s mother and daughter are included on a glass wall at the monument that currently honors more than 230 Virginia women for their accomplishments. Information about the monument is available at womensmonumentcom.virginia.gov.