All posts tagged: Louisa County

The ‘Southern Lady’ Who Beat the Courthouse Crowd

The ‘Southern Lady’ Who Beat the Courthouse Crowd

In 1976, a little southern lady “dressed like a fairy princess”—as she later recounted the moment—stepped to the microphone at a shareholder meeting in Boston and lavishly praised the chair of W. R. Grace & Co. for his commitment to preserving her community. Rae Ely knew perfectly well this was a lie; W. R. Grace was planning to strip-mine for vermiculite in her bucolic Virginia town. In fact, the whole “southern lady” thing was a bit of a lie. But Ely, who had fought the scheme for years, was prepared to use every tool at her disposal to stop the plan, whether eye-catching outfits that captured the attention of the news cameras or entirely unearned flattery. The crowd stood and cheered. The board chair soaked in the applause. And Ely—determined to demonstrate that W. R. Grace had more to gain from goodwill than from vermiculite—had made her point. This article has been adapted from Balogh’s new book. Many at the time dismissed the activism of women like Ely—the press, their opponents, even their own allies. …