Helen Dortch Longstreet

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Helen Dortch Longstreet

Helen Dortch Longstreet (April 20, 1863 – May 3, 1962), known as the "Fighting Lady," was the second wife of Confederate General James Longstreet. She earned her nickname from being a champion of causes such as preservation of the environment and civil rights. She is also remembered for her work as a Confederate memorialist and postmistress.

Biography[edit]

Helen Dortch was born in Carnesville, Georgia, and attended Georgia Baptist Female Seminary (now Brenau College) and the Notre Dame Convent in Maryland. Having met Longstreet through her roommate, she married him on September 8, 1897, when she was just 34[1] and he was 76. She was widowed in 1904, childless.

Prior to marrying Longstreet, she was the first woman in Georgia to serve as Assistant State Librarian in 1894.[2] She also authored the "Dortch Bill" (which became law in 1896) to allow a woman to hold the office of State Librarian.

Before and after becoming a widow, Helen Dortch Longstreet devoted much time to ensure that General Longstreet was accurately portrayed by history. In 1905, she documented her husband’s account of the Civil War by publishing the book Lee and Longstreet at High Tide.[3] Another important cause that she took up about 1911 was the creation of a state park at Tallulah Gorge. Helen Longstreet was opposed to a plan by Georgia Power to build a series of hydroelectric dams along the original course of the Tallulah River and particularly concerned about the potential impact on the Tallulah Gorge.[4] Although unsuccessful, her campaign was one of the first conservation movements in Georgia.

During World War II she was a Rosie the Riveter at the Bell Aircraft plant in Atlanta. She said, "I was at the head of my class in riveting school. In fact I was the only one in it."[5]

Helen Longstreet was also politically active. She became a member of the Progressive Party and supported Theodore Roosevelt when he lost the Republican nomination to Taft in 1912. In fact, she was a delegate to the Progressive Party convention in 1912. She ran an unsuccessful write-in campaign for governor of the State of Georgia against Herman Talmadge in 1950.

She received a number of honors. In 1947, she became the first woman to have her portrait placed in the State Capitol. When the Tallulah Gorge State Park was finally created in 1993, it was done in her honor and the trails in the park were named the "Helen Dortch Longstreet Trail System" in 1999. Helen Dortch Longstreet was inducted in the Georgia Women of Achievement in 1994.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wert, Jeffry D. (2005 paperback ed.) General James Longstreet: The Confederacy's Most Controversial Soldier, p. 425. Simon & Schuster.
  2. ^ Harrington, Hugh T. (2005). Civil War Milledgeville: Tales from the Confederate Capital of Georgia, p. 69. The History Press.
  3. ^ Turkel, Stanley (2005). Heroes of the American Reconstruction, pp. 93-94. McFarland & Company, Inc.
  4. ^ David, Donald Edward (2005). Where There Are Mountains: An Environmental History of the Southern Appalachians, pp. 185-86. The University of Georgia Press.
  5. ^ Quoted in "Confederate General's Widow", p. 38, in Life, December 27, 1943.

External links[edit]