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Monday, May 25, 2009

Women Founded Memorial Day to Unite Our Country


In commemorating the battle of June 9, 1864, at Petersburg, VA, and memories of the old men and boys of the Petersburg militia, the ladies of Petersburg formed the Ladies’ Memorial Association on May 6, 1866. Mrs. William T. Joynes was elected the Association’s first President. The purpose of the association was “to devise means to perpetuate their gratitude and admiration for those who died defending homes and loved ones.”

At their May 30, 1866, meeting, the ladies “discussed the proper celebration of the 9th of June, the anniversary of the noble defence ... by the Reserves, many of whom fell on that day. By a unanimous vote it was decided to make this, the 9th of June, a permanent Memorial Day.” These actions of the Ladies Memorial Association of Petersburg, Virginia, inspired the ultimate establishment of a National Memorial Day.

One of the principal, active members of the Ladies Memorial Association was Miss Nora Fontaine Maury Davidson who had established a school for young women in Petersburg. On June 9, 1865, she took her students with her to Blandford Cemetery and decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate dead with flowers and flags.
Because of the relatively mild weather of Petersburg, grave decorations can last for quite long periods of time. Sometimes the decorations from the year before have to be removed before new decorations can be placed on the graves.

Decorating graves of deceased servicemen is a practice that still prevails in Blandford Cemetery, Petersburg, a practice originated by Miss Davidson and the Ladies Memorial Association. Miss Nora, as she was called, instilled in her students “... the ideals of patriotism and devotion to duty.”

It was the graves decorated by Miss Nora and her students on June 9, 1867, that Mrs. John A. Logan saw on her visit to Petersburg in 1868. “It was from this celebration that Mrs. Logan, wife of the gallant Federal general, who was in Petersburg at that time, gained her inspiration which caused the National Decoration Day which is now in existence.”

Today we honor those men and women who gave their lives for our country. We thank About.com for this information. For more about women in history, please click here.

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