Women’s History Month
On August 29th, 1868 Laura Lu Scherer Copenhaver was born in Columbus, Texas and in 1871, her family returned back to Southwest Virginia. Laura attended the Marion Female College, the college her father started and after her graduation, she returned to work as a teacher at the school. She taught at the college for 25 years, mainly teaching English, mathematics, and astronomy. During those years, she wrote fiction, poetry, and dozens of pageants for the United Lutheran Church of America. She was very dedicated to the church and had a passion for mission work within the community. In 1916, she became a member of the Women’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Southwestern Virginia. She also was elected to the Literature Committee of the Women’s Missionary Society. In 1922, Ms. Copenhaver addressed the biennial convention of the Women’s Missionary Society. They were so moved, they began to work within Southwestern Virginia. Her efforts also established the Konnarock Training School (now the Blue Ridge Discovery Center). The school opened in 1925 and was a public elementary school with a private boarding division. The school provided academic and religious education for boys and girls in the community who did not have access to other public schools. Not only was Copenhaver very involved in academic improvement in the region, she also was an advocate for developing the region’s agricultural economy. In the spring of 1921, she joined the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. She addressed farmer’s about the importance of financial conditions of family farms. She also advocated heavily for the improvement of standards of living for farm families. Copenhaver also developed Rosemont Textiles, which produced coverlets based on traditional patterns. Her company provided many women with a source of income that was relatively rare during that time. In 1922, Laura was recognized for her civic work and encouraged to become a House of Representatives candidate. Eventually, she turned down the prospect because she could not leave her family for politics. In 1940, Laura passed away at Rosemont and is buried at Round Hill Cemetery in Marion.
Laura Lu Copenhaver is a woman who greatly impacted the betterment of Smyth County. She was an advocate for children’s education, for farmers, and for women. Her legacy continues to impact Smyth County and the generations to come. The Konnarock Training School is now the Blue Ridge Discovery Center, opening soon to the public. We honor and celebrate Laura Copenhaver’s life. A statue in her honor is located in Richmond, Virginia at the Virginia Women’s Monument Voices in the Garden.