As the nation celebrates the 2009 Women's History Month, we pause to honor nine women who were significant in the history of Kentucky.
Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the 16th president of the United States, was born in Lexington. She held many séances in the White House in an attempt to communicate with the dead.
Carry Nation, a native of Garrard County, was the infamous hatchet-swinging leader of the Temperance Movement. She was known for going into places that served alcohol and attacking the bar with a hatchet. She once described herself as "a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what he doesn't like." Residents of Lancaster, the Garrard County seat, voted in favor of alcohol sales on Aug. 19, 2008.
Mary Britton attended Berea College, but she left to seek employment as a teacher after her parents died. She later graduated from the American Missionary College in Chicago, and she practiced medicine from her home in Lexington. Her specialties were hydrotherapy and electrotherapy. She obtained a medical license from the Lexington city clerk in 1902, becoming the first African-American female physician in Lexington. She was also a writer for the Lexington Leader.
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Patty Smith Hill, a native of Henderson, was a teacher known in education circles for her work to improve kindergarten education. In 1893, she co-wrote Song Stories for the Kindergarten with her sister, Mildred J. Hill. The collection included Good Morning to You, which later became the melody to the popular Happy Birthday to You.
Laura Clay, daughter of Abraham Lincoln's friend Cassius Clay, the emancipationist, fought for women's suffrage. In 1920, when women were granted the right to vote, she became the first woman to be nominated for U.S. president by a major political party. She was raised at White Hall in Richmond.
Mary Breckinridge founded the Frontier Graduate School of Midwifery in 1939 in Leslie County, based on her belief that rural mothers and children needed better medical care. Years earlier, she had lost both of her own children — her daughter Polly was born prematurely and died after 6 hours, and her son Clifford died of appendicitis at age 4.
Martha Layne Collins, a former teacher and the first female governor of Kentucky, is credited with successfully negotiating with Toyota to build its plant in Georgetown. One of the largest employers in Central Kentucky, the plant makes the Camry, one of the automaker's best sellers, and other models.
Terri Cecil-Ramsey, of Louisville, paralyzed in an automobile accident at age 17, was a national champion and member of the U.S. USA Paralympic wheelchair fencing team in 1996. In 1997, she won the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant.
Lucy Dupuy Montz, born near Warsaw, was Kentucky's first female dentist. She was a teacher before attending the Cincinnati College of Dental Surgery and graduating with honors in 1889. After teaching at the school until age 51, she opened a practice in her hometown, then retired in 1921.