Mightier than the pen: A lady of strength and courage

February 13, 2014

WINNSBORO — The John Bratton Chapter #929 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy will meet at the Fairfield County Council on Aging, 210 E. Washington St., at 6 p.m. Feb. 17.

Pelham Lyles, director of the Fairfield County Museum, will present a program about the life and times of Catharine Ladd, one of the community’s best known female leaders of the 19th century. The public is invited.

In 1848, then well-known educator Catharine Ladd (1808-1899) and her artist husband George W. Livermore Ladd bought the Richard Cathcart home and set up a boarding school for the education of young ladies.

The couple had served the education and portrait painting needs of several communities across several southern states before settling in Winnsboro. The Winnsboro Female Institute would become a counterpart to Mt. Zion College, and girls from many other places came to learn both the cultural and academic masteries necessary to develop ladies of social standing.

The Winnsboro Female Institute closed just as the rumblings of war preceded South Carolina’s secession from the Union in January 1861. The building today houses the Fairfield County Museum.

During the war years, Mrs. Ladd converted her efforts to the formation of the Soldiers’ Aid Association to support the cause. She put aside her pen and took up a needle, and organized the women and girls of the town into production crews for soldiers’ clothing and foodstuffs.

She is known to have contributed to the designing of the Confederate flag while salvaging the village’s pots and pans for conversion to Confederate munitions. After the war, the area was economically depleted and families couldn’t afford to send their daughters to boarding school.

After her husband’s death in 1864, she moved to the Buckhead area (present-day Blair) to renew her teaching of neighborhood children up until a few years before her death at age 91.

Mrs. Ladd became a leader in bringing arts to the community, writing and publishing her poetry and plays in national magazines, and conducting theatrical and musical productions to help the townsfolk survive difficult times. In 1870 she had begun to teach again, but began losing her sight, still teaching the students who came to her home. She died in 1899.

More information can be found on the Facebook site called John Bratton # 929 Chapter of the UDC or by calling 803-635-9811.