On Thursday, March 5, the public is invited to the unveiling of a portrait of Silena Moore Holman and to celebrate Women’s History Month at the Lincoln County Courthouse bandstand at 11 a.m.
Silena Moore Holman was a prestigious Lincoln County woman who was highly influential in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and other important causes in Tennessee more than 120 years ago.
During the ceremony, the contributions of Silena will be celebrated. City and county officials are expected to present a proclamation to celebrate her and other women in the community during Women’s History Month.
Members of the Holman family will be present to help with the unveiling, and representatives from the Women of Lincoln County Committee will be in attendance. Eugene Ham, a local historian, will deliver information about Silena’s life contributions.
In the event of rain, the celebration will be held inside the courthouse on the first floor.
A reproduction of her portrait will be hung on the first floor of the Lincoln County Courthouse. This event also coincides with the 100th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
A group of like-minded citizens here formed The Women of Lincoln County Committee in the fall of 2019 for the purpose of honoring the lives of influential Lincoln County women.
Among the members in the group are Carolyn Denton, Phyllis Hicklen, Eugene Ham, Jim Black, Carol Foster, Lucy Williams, and Sandy Williams. Angie Butler, a friend of Hicklen’s, helped with the research on Silena, and located a company in Nashville that, with the permission of the state, copied the State Constitution and the original portrait of Silena Moore Holman.
Silena was the great-grandmother of the (Ret.) Honorable Don Holman.
Born in neighboring Moore County, Silena lived from 1850-1915. Her father, Capt. J.L. Moore, enlisted in the Confederate Army and was killed, leaving her mother and five children poverty stricken. At that time, Silena was 14, and in order to help provide for the family, she went to work as a teacher in a nearby country schoolhouse.
Within two years, she had earned enough money to buy back the family home. At the age of 24, she married Dr. T.P. Holman, a Lincoln County physician, and while they were living in Mulberry, she joined the Band of Good Templars, a local temperance organization.
The national Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was formed in 1874, and their major goal was to destroy the destructive influence liquor had on the family and home.
When the Holman family moved to a Mulberry Avenue home in Fayetteville, Silena joined the Tennessee Woman’s Christian Temperance Union.
“Mrs. Holman was a powerful, highly educated, quite an eloquent speaker and capable writer,” said Ham in an interview on Fayetteville Public Utilities’ Channel 6. She succeeded first in Fayetteville by shutting down the saloons, which were on every side of the downtown square.
“Prior to 1907, ladies didn’t cross the square unaccompanied,” said Ham.
Dr. Holman was sympathetic to the temperance cause and with their well-to-do standing, the historian explained, it allowed Silena to employ servants to take care of the chores and nurses to care for their eight children.
That freed her up to write, speak and encourage others to join the movement. She rose through the state ranks and became president of the state organization in 1899.
Under her tenure, the Tennessee organization grew from 200 to 4,000 members, both women and men. Then on Jan. 19, 1909, the Tennessee General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to pass statewide prohibition. The work of the WCTU was considered an important factor in its passage.
A great many women of that generation found voices in that movement and went on to the suffrage movement, said Ham, adding very quickly that Silena was an exception.
“Mrs. Holman, however, was a very fierce opponent of women’s voting,” he said.
While Silena was active in the WCTU, she also began writing letters to the Gospel Advocate, a statewide publication of the Disciples of Christ, that was edited by David Lipscomb. She challenged Lipscomb’s views that women should not teach in the church or pray in public.
She debated Lipscomb regularly and argued for more educational opportunities and the safety of women and children.
Silena died on Sept. 18, 1915 from complications of appendicitis surgery. Over 1,000 people attended her funeral to honor her life and work. She was buried in the Holman family plot in the Rose Hill Cemetery.
The WCTU honored Silena by commissioning a portrait of her, which was displayed inside the state Capital and in later years was moved to the Tennessee State Museum. Silena’s original portrait was painted by Murfreesboro’s Willie Betty Newman, an acclaimed Tennessee artist who studied and exhibited in Paris, France. In 1912, she opened an art school in Nashville.
The Women of Lincoln County Committee is interested in highlighting the lives of other Lincoln County women who have made an impact on the community.
Anyone with information about influential Lincoln County women is asked to call the Fayetteville-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau at 931-433-1234.