Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park


Hon. Helen Timmons Henderson

Helen Henderson was the first woman elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates after women won the right to vote in 1920.  It took two days after the election for the final news to trickle into Council in Buchanan County. Mrs. Henderson was the first woman ever to be nominated for a seat in the Legislature of conservative Virginia. (The following fall Norfolk City sent Mrs. Sarah Lee Fain to the General Assembly.)  Not long after the session opened Mrs. Henderson was called to the chair, and became the first woman ever to preside over the law-making body.  A Missouri native, Henderson was a teacher in Buchanan County and helped found the Baptist Mountain School, which opened there in 1911. In 1923, a group of local Democratic men invited her to run for the county’s assembly seat, making her the first woman ever to be nominated. She became an effective advocate for southwestern Virginia and worked tirelessly for better schools and roads.  She won the election by more than 400 votes, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, despite “strenuous opposition from some independent Democrats, Republicans, and wets.” (In the terminology of the day, “wets” opposed Prohibition.) “She took a vigorous and important part” in the proceedings of the four committees on which she sat, according to the Times-Dispatch, “and on the floor was one of the most respected and influential members of the House.” Henderson died, however, in 1925, before she could stand for reelection. Governor E. Lee Trinkle, and a House resolution, praised her “many virtues, clear vision and noble aspirations.

On Saturday, September 20, 2008, a special public "Induction Ceremony" was held at 5:30 pm on the grounds of the Southwest Virginia Museum in Big Stone Gap. The event was part of the museum's year-long 60th Anniversary celebration. We wish to thank all those you came out to celebrate these very fine accomplishments. For more information, contact the museum at 276-523-1332.  

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