The world changes every day. Sometimes we don’t see it – and certainly, we don’t always realize the wheels that have been put in motion. But any day could be the one that sets off a chain of events and reactions that benefit mankind. There are no shortage of such events – and people – in Virginia. From the first landing of colonists at Jamestown in 1607, Virginia has been part of a tide of change and innovation that has led to some of the most significant events and discoveries in history. Truly, the world would not be the same without Virginia.
1. We became the first permanent colony in the New World, starting in 1607.
When the first colonists came to Jamestown in 1607, they were just looking to gain wealth and establish a British stronghold in the New World. What they did was succeed where so many others had failed. Through their perseverance, they created a colony that grew and thrived, leading to the creation of America as we know it today.
2. We are the birthplace of Presidents.
More presidents have been born in Virginia than any other state. From our nation's 1st president, George Washington, to the 28th, Woodrow Wilson, a total of 8 presidents have called Virginia home. Among these men are some of the most influential leaders of all times, including Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
3. We ended 2 wars.
Two of the most important wars fought on domestic soil ended in Virginia. The Revolutionary War ended when Cornwallis surrendered to Washington in Yorktown in 1783. Less than 100 years later in Appomattox, Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865, thus ending the Civil War and reuniting the nation.
4. We helped form other states like Kentucky and West Virginia.
Originally, all territory claimed for Britain in the New World was called Virginia. But once “states” were established and began being admitted into the Union, Virginia still included Kentucky and West Virginia. Both of these Virginia “territories” were isolated from the center of government in the capital of Richmond, and so in 1792 and 1863 respectively, Kentucky and West Virginia took on their own statehood.
5. We began the system of free public schools.
The first free public school started in Hampton in 1634. The Syms-Eaton Free School was established by Benjamin Syms. Syms donated 200 acres and 8 cows to the school, which also served the areas of Elizabeth City and Poquoson.
6. We eradicated yellow fever in the U.S. through the work of Dr. Walter Reed.
Born in Gloucester County in 1851, Reed became, and remains, the youngest student to receive an M.D. from the University of Virginia. Much of his research on yellow fever was done along the Potomac River before he discovered that it was mosquitoes, not humans, who transmitted the virus. His discovery in 1901 led to additional epidemiological research that eventually eradicated the deadly disease.
7. We changed the face of agricultural with the mechanical reaper for grain.
Cyrus McCormick of Rockbridge County combined the work of multiple farming tools to create the mechanical reaper in 1831. His invention allowed farmers to increase crop yields up to 200% and is the basis of today’s commercial machines. McCormick was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1976.
8. We gave hope to millions with the birth of America’s first test tube baby.
We didn’t invent babies, but the first successful IVF pregnancy in the U.S. happened at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. When a healthy baby girl was born by Caesarian on December 28, 1981, many families were given hope through this new technology.
9. We helped create equality through Civil Rights.
In 1950s and 60s, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) of Virginia filed more lawsuits than any other state, many of them leading to monumental victories, including Loving v. Virginia, a case in which the law against interracial marriage was overturned. This ruling on June 12, 1967, led to similar rulings in 15 other states.
10. We helped create the standards for national and state governance.
With the first meeting of the Virginia General Assembly at Jamestown in July 1619, the Virginia House of Burgesses became the first democratically elected legislative body in the colonies. Today, the Virginia General Assembly remains the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere.
11. We changed the world of medical research through Henrietta Lacks ' contribution.
Henrietta Lacks (August 1, 1920 – October 4, 1951) was born in Roanoke, but grew up in Clover. After moving to Baltimore, Lacks was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor and died soon after from complications. Before her death, a sample of her cancerous cells were taken without permission, as was common at the time, and eventually cultured and cloned to create the first known human immortal cell line for medical research, now known as the HeLa cell line. In 1996, Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta recognized the Lacks family for Henrietta's posthumous contributions to medical research. Her story has been told in the best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
12. We paved the way for women and minorities in business with Maggie Walker.
Born to a former slave in 1864, Walker grew up Richmond where she eventually chartered and served as president of the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, earning her the title of first woman of any race to run a bank. When poor health and partial paralysis confined her to a wheelchair in later life, she continued to serve as a bank chairman and an advocate for the disabled until her death in 1934. Walker’s achievements paved the way for generations of women and black entrepreneurs to come.
What contributions do you recognize Virginia for? Did we leave any significant ones off of our list? We would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to let us know in the comments below!