Statue to honor Southwest Virginia businesswoman

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A statue of Laura Lu Scherer Copenhaver will be among 12 that will be placed at the Virginia Women’s Monument.

A Smyth County entrepreneur has earned a spot on a new monument honoring the accomplishments of Virginia women.

Laura Lu Scherer Copenhaver, who died in 1940 at age 72, was one of the first members of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, which emphasizes cooperative marketing of farm products to improve farmers’ standard of living.

Copenhaver’s achievements have earned her a place in the Virginia Women’s Monument on Capitol Square in downtown Richmond. Her bronze, life-size statue will stand among 11 others honoring notable women such as Martha Washington and Richmond banker Maggie L. Walker. Copenhaver’s mother and daughter also will be included in the monument, with their names inscribed on a wall. 

“I don’t think she is well known outside of her region, but she should be,” says Sandra Treadway, the librarian of Virginia and member of the monument commission.

Copenhaver practiced the cooperative marketing methods she preached. She hired and trained women to make coverlets, hooked rugs and other household items.

Through a mail-order catalog, she sold products to markets as far away as Asia and Europe, an enterprise that created local jobs.

“It was very unusual for a woman to do that at that time,” Treadway says. 

The business, later incorporated as Laura Copenhaver Industries, operated for almost 100 years. It closed in 2012, according to her descendants, in part because artisans became scarce. Copenhaver’s relatives hope the monument will shed light on her accomplishments.

“We really are thrilled. She flew under the radar,” says Thomas Copenhaver, Laura Copenhaver’s grandson, who ran the business in its final years.  

The granite plaza and the Wall of Honor are open now to the public, but statues have not yet been placed there. Some, but not all, will be on the plaza when the monument is dedicated Oct. 14. Copenhaver’s statue has not yet been made.

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