One Woman and a World of Change
In Charleston, West Virginia, you can find the home of civil rights leader Elizabeth Harden Gilmore who led efforts to integrate schools, housing and public accommodations in her state. Gilmore’s long list of civil rights victories began prior to the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. In the early 1950s, Gilmore formed a women’s club that opened the first integrated day care center in Charleston and later secured the admission of African-American Girl Scouts into the previously all-white Camp Anne Bailey. But her steadfast fight for equality did not stop there. In 1958, she co-founded the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality and went on to lead a department store sit-in campaign that lasted over a year, resulting in the integration of Charleston lunch counters. Serving on the Kanawha Valley Council of Human Relations, she continued to combat social injustice by participating in forums on racial differences and fought for equal housing. Following her success in amending the 1961 state civil rights law, she earned a seat on the higher-education Board of Regents where she served from 1969 to the late 1970s, one term as vice president and one as president.