The contributions of Fayetteville’s Silena Moore Holman more than a century ago will be recognized Thursday, March 5, as a reproduction of her portrait, which long hung in the Tennessee State Capitol, is unveiled at the Lincoln County Courthouse where it will remain for years to come.
Ceremonies are set to get underway at the courthouse bandstand at 11 a.m. Thursday. In the case of rain, ceremonies will be moved inside to the first floor of the courthouse.
The event coincides with the start of Women’s History Month, said Carolyn Denton, a member of The Women of Lincoln County Committee, which formed early last year to recognize the contributions of notable women to the state, as well as to the community here.
Denton will welcome guests on hand for Thursday’s unveiling, as Bro. Jim Black, minister of the Washington Street church of Christ, delivers the prayer.
Fayetteville Mayor Michael Whisenant and Lincoln County Mayor Bill Newman will speak on the importance of women in our history, while Fayetteville Vice Mayor Dorothy Small will address the importance of women in our future.
Eugene Ham, a local historian and also a member of the committee, will talk about the significance of artist Willie Betty Newman, who was commissioned to paint the portrait of Silena. The portrait was displayed in the State Capitol for many years and is now in the Tennessee State Museum. Mrs. Newman, an acclaimed artist formerly of Murfreesboro, now resides in Marshall County and is expected to also attend Thursday’s ceremonies.
Susan Ahrens Covington, great-great-granddaughter of Silena, will present her history, and the Holman family will assist in the unveiling.
Silena Moore Holman (1850-1915) was a prestigious Lincoln County woman who was highly influential in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and other important causes in Tennessee. Born in neighboring Moore County, she was the daughter of Capt. J.L. Moore, who was killed in the Civil War. The eldest of five children, she took responsibility for the family finances by teaching school at the age of 14.
At the age of 24, she married Dr. T.P. Holman, a Lincoln County doctor, in January of 1875. As the mother of eight children, she managed to serve the public for over 35 years. During her 15-year tenure as president of the Tennessee Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the organization grew from 200 to more than 4,000 members, both men and women.
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.
While Silena was active in the WCTU, she also began writing letters to the Gospel Advocate, a statewide publication of the churches of Christ/Disciples of Christ, 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.
“The Bible nowhere intimates that the mind of woman is inferior to that of man (and it is the mind that makes the leader),” she once wrote.
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 is buried in the Holman family plot in Rose Hill Cemetery.