Melba Porter Hay, the author of Madeline McDowell Breckinridge and the Battle for a New South, the first biography of the Kentucky suffragette, activist, and philanthropist, will be the guest speaker at the 5th Annual John Sherman Cooper Lecture to be held in the Harold Rogers Student Commons in the Citizens National Bank Community Room on the Somerset Community College Somerset Campus North on Monday, March 15, at 2 p.m. Admission is free and the public is invited. A reception will follow the event.
Hay received her PhD in history from the University of Kentucky in 1980. She was the Division Manager of the Research and Publications division at the Kentucky Historical Society. As Division Manager, she oversaw the library, special collections, and the publications programs. Hay edited several volumes of the Society's journal, The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society as well as several issues of Kentucky Ancestors, the Society's genealogical magazine.
Hay has also written many articles, a number of which were published in The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, as well as chapters in several books. She edited and wrote the introduction for Thomas D. Clarks Simon Kenton: Kentucky Scout and is the co-editor of Roadside History: A Guide to Kentucky Highway Markers, The Public Papers of Governor Brereton C. Jones, and Kentucky: Land of Tomorrow.
The biography of Madeline McDowell Breckinridge tells the story of a leader of the women's suffrage movement and one of Kentucky's leading Progressive reformers.
According to the American Historical Review, "This is a thoroughly researched and insightful biography that furthers our understanding of the critical role women played in Progressive reform in the southern states."
Breckinridge was born in Woodlake, Kentucky, and grew up at Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate, the farm established by her great-grandfather, nineteenth-century statesman Henry Clay. Her mother was Henry Clay, Jr.'s daughter, Anne Clay McDowell, and her father was Major Henry Clay McDowell (a namesake of Henry Clay), who served during the American Civil War on the Union side. They purchased the Ashland estate in 1882.
One of Breckinridges brothers was federal judge Henry C. McDowell, Jr.. Another, Thomas, was a renowned Thoroughbred racehorse owner/breeder and trainer who won the 1902 Kentucky Derby.
In 1898 Madeline McDowell married Desha Breckinridge, the editor of the Lexington Herald and a brother of the pioneering social worker Sophonisba Breckinridge.
Breckinridge was largely responsible for Kentuckys ratification of the Nineteen Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote. It was passed shortly before she died. She was able to vote only once in her life, in the November 1920 Presidential Election before suffering a stroke and dying on Thanksgiving Day in 1920, at the age of 48.
According to Roger Tate, professor of history at SCC, the annual John Sherman Cooper Lecture focuses on issues of public affairs.
John Sherman Cooper was born in Somerset, Pulaski County, on Aug. 23, 1901. He graduated from public schools. He attended Centre College in Danville, but graduated from Yale College in 1923. Cooper attended Harvard Law School from 1923-25 and was admitted to the Kentucky Bar in 1928. He set up his law practice in Somerset.
Cooper was elected to the Kentucky Legislature in 1928. He served as judge of Pulaski County from 1930 to 1938. Cooper was a veteran. He served in World War II and rose to the rank of captain in the Army. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1946 and served until 1949. He was elected to the Senate a second time from 1952 to 1955. On Nov. 6, 1956 Cooper was elected a third time to the Senate. He was reelected in 1960 and 1966. His Senate service ended on Jan. 3, 1973 when he declined to run for reelection.
Cooper was also a member of the board of trustees of the University of Kentucky from 1935-1946, served as a delegate to the United Nations, and was appointed Ambassador to India, Nepal and the German Democratic Republic. He died on Feb. 21, 1991 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
The inaugural Cooper Lecture was given by Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell in August 2005. At that time McConnell said, One of the greatest senators in Kentucky history, and certainly the greatest of my adult lifetime, is John Sherman Cooper. He stood fast for what he believed was right, no matter how large the opposition or great the cost. He taught me how to be a senator. And he taught everyone who knew him the value of integrity, forthrightness, and moral character.
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