Tag Archives: Richmond

9 To 5

I just finished looking through some of the Mary Holt Woolfolk Carlton Papers at Virginia Commonwealth University where I made one of my most favorite discoveries of all time. But first, who the hell is Holt?

Holt was a friend and comrade of Zelda’s and together they stormed that bastion of Virginia conservatism, our local chapter of the fourth estate. The local newspaper, the staunchly conservative Richmond Times-Dispatch, is not much different today than it was in Zelda and Holt’s heyday. While today you can read the RTD’s attack on Katherine Waddell and the Women’s Strike Force, in the 1970’s you could look forward to such gems as sex-segregated job ads and disparaging remarks about the Women’s Bank. In fact, the frequency with which these two allies and friends mention their frustration with the media in their letters makes me wonder if I shouldn’t turn my research in that direction.

Anyway, back to Holt. She was from a “Virginia family” (as a transplant, I learned that this is code for “rich, white and, at some point probably not distant, landed) and married a supportive lawyer. She is a trained social worker with a master’s degree and something of an expert on human sexuality who corresponded with Dr. William Masters, among others. She is quite poised and very intelligent, just the sort of person you’d want to have working for you, if you were the boss. This makes my new favorite discovery all the sweeter.

In one of many folders of correspondence in the collection I found two letters, both written to people who had interviewed Holt for jobs in the past. In the letters, which almost seem like therapy exercises, she writes of her frustration and feelings of helplessness when these two men made sexist remarks to her during job interviews. Her letters are both diplomatic and eloquent and she ends both with a hope that the recipient has changed his mind about women in the intervening years. One man does indeed write back to tell her that he has changed his mind.

I am simply blown away by Holt’s courage and, well, balls. These feelings must have weighed on her through the years and informed much of her activism, particularly when it came to “desexigrating” the Help Wanted ads. One of the letters is much more difficult to read than the other. This expressive letter was written to a man who told her that “women are just office furniture”. That Holt could write to him, clearly state her feelings at the time and then end by effectively positioning him to easily claim reform is not only brilliant but shows both an amazing maturity and a sound rationality. If I had received such a letter, I would be kicking myself for not having hired such a daring and brilliant mind.

Holt Carleton (as she is known) is still alive and I can’t wait to talk with her.


The Confederacy: Partying Like it’s 1899

As you all know, I’ve been temporarily gainfully employed for a short while and so my posts have been infrequent. Though I’m working for the Henrico County Library System, I’m still trying to make my contribution to the Library of Virginia and their blog Out of the Box. I’d like to give you a peek at my latest, unedited LVA contribution. As it is somewhat professional, it does not contain my usual strains of jackassery though I did try to convince the blog’s editor that they should somehow incorporate my Prince reference in the title when it goes live.

Could you ever imagine that in 1896, here in Richmond, the heart of the former confederacy, soldiers on both sides of the bloody conflict that was the Civil War would come together and party? Well, believe it. The occasion was a reunion of soldiers who had spent time in the care of Sally Tompkins and the staff at the Robertson Hospital and the reunion register can be found here at the Library of Virginia.

The hospital reunion register records the names, signatures and sometimes military unit of former soldiers who attended a patient reunion during the Grand Confederate Reunion of 1896. Some wives’ names are also listed. A quick perusal of the document reveals that some attendees were soldiers who fought for the Union, further testimony to the respect and love that soldiers on both sides felt for the care Tompkins bestowed on all. The love was not one-sided as Tompkins paid for the entire blowout herself, renting a house and providing food and drink for the entire company.

Only a remarkable woman such as Tompkins could have engineered such a get-together. Born in Poplar Grove,Mathews City., Va., on 9 Nov. 1833, Tompkins moved to Richmond following the death of her husband and used her considerable inheritance to open a private hospital at the outbreak of the war. Tompkins opened the hospital at the corner of 3rd and Main Street at the home of Judge John Robertson, thus giving the facility its name. The quality of care at Robertson Hospital was of such a high caliber that Jefferson Davis allowed the hospital to operate after he closed all other private hospitals in the capital. In all, the hospital treated 1,333 soldiers from its opening until the last patients were discharged 13 June 1865. Only 73 deaths were ever recorded at Robertson Hospital during its entire existence. When regulations were handed down to the effect that all military hospitals must be run only by military personnel, rather than dispense with such excellent care as Tompkins provided, she was instead appointed a captain of calvary to comply with the new rules. Needless to say, Tompkins was the only commissioned woman in the Confederate Army.

Sally Tompkins was buried with full military honors after her death on 26 July, 1916 in Richmond, Virginia.

Well, that’s about it for any creative output I’ve managed lately. I’m sort of in the midst of a lot of varied career stuff right now. I’m still working on my Continuing Education survey, attempting to find permanent work, trying to write whenever I get the chance and, of course, doing what it is I’m doing now at the headquarters of the Henrico County Library System.

Oh, but I do want to mention that I managed to snag an interview this coming Wednesday at the Appomattox Regional Library System for a Reference Librarian position. Woot!