Historical marker honors Forrester

Published 6:41 pm Monday, June 5, 2017

A marker was recently erected in front of the house that Martha E. Forrester lived in during her life at the intersection of Race and Franklin streets.

The marker — one that signifies her work in the community — adds the location to the historic register of the Virginia Department of Historic Places.

The house’s current owner, Beatrice L. White, said the process of getting the marker erected began under the former Moton Museum Director Lacy Ward.

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Changes in museum personnel, she said, delayed the project.

Forrester, who died in 1951, is well-known for her help in establishing the Council of Colored Women in 1920 and for being the president of the organization for 30 years.

“I told (Moton Museum Longwood University Liaison Dr. Larissa Fergeson), I said, ‘OK, we gotta get it up and running this year,’ which we did,” White said. “So we made the application to the Department of Historic Resources, and it was a very daunting task because you have to make sure that you include in-depth historical information. And then (the applications) goes through one phase where as, you know, they check the verbiage on the application and then they check the historical information and data.”

White said Forrester, who was from Richmond, married Robert Forrester.

After his passing, she said Forrester moved to Farmville to live with her daughter, Jeannette Clark.

“She felt the need that she wanted to improve the lives, you know, of African-American children here in the form of education,” White said. “So she and four other women started the (Council of Colored Women) in 1920 and they each had to bring another person and that’s how it started.”

White said Forrester and the others raised money for the Moton High School, which was new at the time.

White said the Council of Colored Women was a staple in the Farmville community up until about three years ago.

White said while she was relation to Forrester, she inherited the house from Forrester’s granddaughter, Nellie Clark Young.

Moton Museum Managing Director Cameron Patterson said he thought the marker was a great addition to the community.

“I think with these historical markers, when folks see them it peaks their curiosity in regards to the information that it’s articulating,” Patterson said. “So hopefully when folks see this sign they’ll want to learn more about Martha Forrester (and) they’ll want to come to the Moton Museum and check that out.”

According to the sign, the council fostered community uplift through campaigns Forrester led to improve educational opportunities for African-American students in Prince Edward County. The council was later renamed the Martha E. Forrester Council of Women in her honor.

Fergeson said Forrester was born during the Civil War and lived to see the Moton student strike in 1951.

“She was really one of those, kind of the bridge generation from the Civil War,” Fergeson said.