March is Women's History Month. Recognizing the achievements of women in history began in 1911 with the first International Women's Day as March 8. In 1980 President Carter declared the week of March 8 as Women's History Week. In 1987 President Reagan designated the month of March as Women's History Month. This year's annual theme is "Visionary Women."
Visionary women have contributed much in our parish's 148 year history. Vernon Parish has many accomplished women in history, education, writing, industry, government, the arts, the military, and science.
The first woman in Vernon Parish history was here before Vernon Parish. Nancy R. Hays was the only female of the 43 land grant recipients in the land between the Rio Hondo (Calcasieu) and Sabine Rivers that is now Vernon Parish. Her third class land grant of 640 acres, dated Feb. 22, 1819, was located in the Neutral Strip that many called No Man's Land.
The courage of a woman to live in a lawless area had to be great.
In our parish's beginning, many women worked as educators. In Vernon Parish from 1871 to 1876 about 37 schools were established. Teachers such as Theodosia Burr Smart of Leesville, Jennie Cole of Huddleston, Emma D. McAlpin of Elizabeth Chapel, Sarah J. McAlpin Gosset of Pine Island, C. A. Hill of the Weeks community, and Lilette Coutch Shaw of the LaCaze community stepped up to the plate when teachers were needed for $18.00 to $33.33 a month.
In our postal system, from 1847 to 1954 about 89 post offices were established. Of them, seven had female postmasters.
Women such as Leatha Hyatt Foster of Anacoco, Bettie Bray Faircloth of Dusenbury, Nancy Everett of Everett, Effie Long of LaCamp, Eva Duhon of Sigler, Nancy Turner Haymon of Six Mile, and Hattie Maude McElveen of Velma worked at various times and locations to see that the mail got through.