Spotlight: Women in Central Kentucky

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge, civic leader and suffragist who was instrumental in Kentucky’s ratifying the 19th Amendment, was born in Lexington on April 20th, 1872. Breckinridge grew up at Ashland, which had been established by her great-grandfather, Henry Clay. She married Desha Breckinridge, publisher of the Lexington Herald, and whose family was the very political Breckinridges of Lexington, and included in its lineage Vice President John C. Breckinridge. She was a champion of many causes including women’s rights and was vice-president of the National Women’s Suffrage Association. Breckinridge also founded a settlement at Proctor, Kentucky, similar to Chicago’s Hull House, advocated to establish playgrounds and kindergartens, and spoke out against child labor. She lived to see her dream recognized, casting her first and only vote after the ratifaction of the 19th amendment just before she passed away in November 1920.

Linda Neville, Appalachian health crusader whose efforts led to the eradication of blindness-causing trachoma, was born in Lexington on April 23rd, 1873. After visiting Kathrine Petit’s Hindman school, Neville saw that many people were suffering from a form of conjunctivitis called trachoma, which was highly contagious and caused many eye problems including blindness. She encouraged eye specialists to go to Appalachia and provide free care to those in need. She organized, planned, and publicized eye clinics and supplied medical teams with anesthesia and medications. In 1910, Neville founded the Kentucky Society for the Prevention of Blindness, and became the Executive Secretary and solely responsible for its activities. In conjunction with her work, she helped draft laws and lobbied successfully for legislation supporting the cause of blindness. The first such law was the Opthalmia-Trachoma Reporting Law from 1914, which required that all newborn babies with diseased eyes be reported to local boards of health. Her work continued for more than forty years and she passed away June 2, 1961 and is buried in the Lexington Cemetery.

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One thought on “Spotlight: Women in Central Kentucky

  1. Pingback: Linda Neville, a Donor Profile and some Kentucky History | Radio Eye

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