Who was the first to do something? The answer to that frequently asked question is often difficult to answer. Some firsts are documented while others are the subject of legend and speculation.
For centuries, women were systematically excluded from history books and newspaper articles.
So, during this month of March, the National Women's History Month Project is seeking to write women back into history.
Women's History Month had its origin in 1979 when a Sonoma County School District began a week of celebrating the contributions of women to the history of America. In 1981, the United States Congress adopted a resolution proclaiming National Women's History Week. The week long celebration was expanded to include the entire month of March in 1987.
Here is my list of fifty female firsts by Laurens County Women. I let you know about these women to honor them and all women who have contributed to their communities. They are in no particular order, except they are roughly chronological.
1. Unity Register was the first woman to get married in Laurens County. She married Matthew Smith on Feburary 19, 1809.
2. Averilla Albritton, Rachel Allen and Mary Barlow were the first three women to have their wills probated in the Inferior Court of Laurens County, all on March 10, 1823.
3. Isabella Hamilton Blackshear was the first woman to enter Wesleyan College in Macon in 1836. Wesleyan was the first college in the world to offer degrees to women.
4. Eugenia Tucker Cochran Fitzgerald was the first president of the Adelphean Society at Wesleyan College. The society became Alpha Delta Pi and is the oldest women's sorority in the world.
5. Elizabeth Cummings Harrington was one of the first black female dentists in Alabama.
6. Dr. Annie Yarborough was one of the first, if not the first, black female dentists in the State of Georgia. She began her practice in 1911.
7. Piccola Prescott was named the first female postal carrier in the county in 1918.
8. Pearl Cummings Davis was the first black female pharmacist in Laurens County and one of the first in Georgia.
9. Maggie New was the first woman to register to vote in 1920.
10. Mrs. W. H. Beall was the first female mayor of a Laurens County town. Mrs. Beall was elected Mayor of Brewton in 1921.
11. Mrs. M.E. Brantley, Mrs. M.F. Beall, Mrs. F.A. Brantley, Mrs. C.G. Moye and Mrs. H.B. Sutton joined Mrs. W. H. Beall in winning elections as the first five women to serve on the council of a Laurens County town.
12. Mrs. Annie Anderson in 1922 was named as Judge of the Juvenile Court of Laurens County, Georgia, making Judge Anderson the first female judge in the state's history.
13. Mary Rachel Jordan, in 1924, was credited as the first woman to vote in a county election.
14. Kathleen Duggan Smith graduated from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. in 1924. Mrs. Duggan was the first Laurens County woman to practice law.
15. Opal Glenn Rife was named as the pastor of the First Church of the Nazerene in Dublin, making Rev. Rife the first female minister in the county.
16. Mrs. Frank Lawson, a political activist, was the first woman to be named vice-chairman of a Democratic Congressional District Committee in Georgia in 1927.
17. Mrs. J.E. Perry, it was said, was the first woman in the United States to have a haircut while flying in an airplane. Mrs. Perry's feat was accomplished in 1927 while flying upside down.
18. Henrietta Stanley Dull published Southern Cooking, long considered the bible of southern cookbooks. The first book written by a Laurens County woman was first published in 1928. The cookbook is still being sold in stores today.
19. In 1933, Aretha Miller Smith, at the age of 19, became the youngest female lawyer in the history of Georgia.
20. That same year, Jessie Baldwin was named as the first female clerk of the Dublin District of the Southern District of the Federal Court.
21. Elizabeth Garrett Page was selected as the first female member of the Dublin City Board of Education in 1933.
22. Charlotte Hightower Harrell became the first female court reporter in the state.
23. Maryan Smith Harris was the first local female to join the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service, the W.A.V.E.S., in World War II.
24. Madge Hilbun Methvin was the first Laurens County woman to publish a newspaper, the Vienna News.
25. Cherry Waldrep Clements was the first woman in the history of the University of Georgia to earn a master's degree in Math Education.
This week, I conclude my list of fifty female firsts for Laurens County women. There will be more firsts. Just recently, Carol Porter of Dublin, announced her intentions to become the first female Lieutenant Governor of Georgia. In this new world with the limitations formerly placed on women lifted, the skies are the limits. So, during this Women's National History Month, let us take time to remember the outstanding accomplishments of the women of our community.
26. Ruth Gordon, a health nurse for Laurens County, was the first woman to join Post No. 17 of the American Legion in Dublin. Gordon, who joined the post in 1942, served as a nurse during World War I.
27. Meanwhile Alta Mae Hammock and Brancy Horne were the first Laurens County women to join the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps, the W.A.A.C.s, in World War II.
28. Bessye P. Deveraux was named as the first woman in the Charleston Shipyards to earn an Outstanding Workmanship Award, one awarded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
29. In 1940, Mrs. W.O. "Annie" Prescott was appointed as the first female Justice of the Peace in Laurens County. Mrs. Prescott, who succeeded her husband, was charged with hearing cases within the jurisdiction of the Buckeye Militia District.
30. Selina Burch, a graduate of Dublin High School, became a leading advocate for telephone workers and one of the first female Union leaders in the Southeast.
31. The 1951 Cedar Grove girls' basketball team was the first Laurens County women's team to capture a state championship.
32. In 1955, Mrs. Guy V. Cochran and Betty Lovett Yeomans were the first women selected to the jury pool. Later that same year, Mrs. Duncan Weatherall was the first woman to serve on a trial jury.
33. Also in 1955, Mrs. Ruby D. Young, known as a "pistol packing mama," served as the first woman bailiff.
34. Rubye Jackson, a Laurens County native, was the first female assistant attorney general in Georgia.
35. Dr. Annella Brown became the first Laurens County woman to practice medicine and was the first female board certified surgeon in the Northeastern United States.
36. Henrietta Bidgood earned the title of the first Laurens County woman to be elected to a county office when she was elected County Treasurer.
37. Dr. Eleanor Ison-Franklin became the first woman, either black or white, to head the medical department of a major university, Howard University, in the early 1970s.
38. Sarah Hadden, of Rentz, was appointed by Judge R.I. Stephens as the first female Laurens County jury commissioner in the 1950s. Mrs. Hadden was one of the first female commissioners in the state.
39. In December 1968, Lela Warnock replaced her late husband, Dewey Warnock, as the first and only female county commissioner in Laurens County's history.
40. Eugenia Rawls, the first female Laurens Countian to appear on broadway, television and movies, was honored as the first American actress to play the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Ireland. Rawls was also the first Laurens County woman to appear on Broadway and television.
41. Anne Lovett was the first woman to obtain a PhD degree in Chemistry from Georgia Tech.
42. Sharon Tucker, a graduate of Dublin's Oconee High School, graduated as the first black female graduate of the University of Georgia Law School in 1974.
43. The Rev. Irene Tos, who served a term as pastor of Pinehill Methodist Church, was the first female minister of the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.
44. Tina Price Cochran, a two-sport all state high school and college player at the University of Georgia where she set many records, was one of the first women chosen in the first women's professional basketball league draft in 1978. Mrs. Cochran was recently cited by Bulldog historian Dan McGill as the best female two-sport star in Georgia history.
45. Probate Court Judge Helen W. Harper was the first woman to be elected as a judge in the history of the county in 1980.
46. Barbara Sanders Thomas, a graduate of Oconee High School, rose in the ranks of CBS radio to become the company's first female African-American vice-president.
47. In 1988, Sydney Kyzer Morton was chosen as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, making Mrs. Morton the first woman in the county to attend a major national party convention.
48. The 1997 Dublin High School softball team was the first Dublin female team to win a state championship.
49. Gen. Belinda H. Pinckney attended both Oconee High School and Dublin High School, before graduating from East Laurens High School. This thirty three plus year veteran of the United States Army is currently head of the Army's Diversity Task Force and is one of the highest ranking female African American generals in the history of our country's armed forces.
50. Soffie Thigpen, a Laurens County native, in November 2004 became the highest ranking female officer in the Georgia State Patrol.
And, here's a few more.
Kathy Beall Sweat was the first female member of the Dublin-Laurens Development Authority. Mrs. Sweat served with Willie Paulk, the first female Chamber of Commerce Director.
Geva Alexander was the first female president of the Chamber of Commerce and the first female director of the Downtown Development Authority.
Kathy Hogan Henderson was the first female law enforcement officer in Dublin and Laurens County.
Jane Meeks Christian was the first female to wear the uniform of the East Dublin Police Department.
Ellie Wilson Washington was the first black female telephone operator for Souther Bell Telephone Co. in Dublin, beginning work in 1968. Mrs. Washington, of Millville Church Community, worked long distance, local, directory assistance, Cama operator, etc. She also worked as a CWA Union Representative for local Southern Bell and was the first black to work there.
Shirley Willis was the first woman to serve on the Board of Directors for the Progressive Rural Telephone Co-op. The Co-op serves the telephone, cable television and Internet access needs of the smaller cities and communities surrounding Dublin. Mrs. Willis, a representative for Dudley, completed the term of her husband, Tommy Willis, after he passed away in 1986. She has continued to be elected by the members of the Co-op to serve in that position.