Free Lance-Star reporter Amy Umble covers Stafford County schools and other education issues

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Marker to honor early pioneer for women’s issues

Dr. Kate Waller Barrett

You might just know Kate Waller Barrett as the name of a Stafford elementary school.But that school is named for a woman with an unusual story, a woman who reached out to prostitutes and unwed mothers.

She even traveled to Europe to try and prevent sex trafficking to the United States, an effort that continues to be necessary 100 years later.

On Oct. 27, a highway marker will be dedicated to Barrett.The dedication and unveiling ceremony for the “Katherine Harwood Waller Barrett” marker will begin at 2 p.m at the Widewater Fire and Rescue station, 749 Widewater Road, where the marker is located.

Keynote remarks during the public ceremony will be provided by local historian Jerrilynn Eby MacGregor, who will discuss the life and work of Barrett. A representative of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will also participate in the ceremony. The marker will be unveiled after the speakers’ remarks.

Barrett, who was born in 1857 at Clifton, a Waller-family home in Stafford County’s Widewater community, earned medical and nursing degrees and “devoted her professional life to the care and education of unmarried pregnant women, a group previously treated as outcasts,” according to the highway marker. “With philanthropist Charles Nelson Crittenton, Barrett founded a rescue home for unmarried pregnant girls in Atlanta in 1893,” the marker states.


She later worked with Crittenton in founding the National Florence Crittenton Mission (now The National Crittenton Foundaton), the first philanthropic institution chartered by Congress. When she passed away in 1925, Barrett was the first woman whose death was occasioned by the lowering of the flag at the Virginia State Capitol.