Husband: John G. Nelson (Fig. R558b)
Father: J. W. Nelson
Mother: Camelia C. Nelson
Born: 1890, in Halifax County Va.
Died: 1973. Buried in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond

Wife: Edith Duval (Ede, Dee Dee) (Wood) Nelson (Fig. R558b, c)
Father: Lewis E. Wood [R005]
Mother: Emma (Burger) Wood [R005]
Born: 12/6/1893, at “Wood home near Nimrod Hall”
Died: 12/6/1990, in Richmond Va. Buried in Hollywood Cemetery,

Married: 9/12/1922, at Nimrod Hall. The minister was Edith’s brother,
    David Kemper Wood [R550].

(1996) Edith, Mattie [R559], and Elsie [R561] (Fig. R558a) were the three Nimrod daughters who did not marry young. Ede was 28 in 1921, the other two a bit younger. I think their mother would have been happy to have them stay at Nimrod and assume an increasing share of the burden of running the place, even at the risk of spinsterhood, but they preferred to find professions in the outside world. Ede had taught in the Bath County school system in 1919. She had no qualifications to teach, but the County was desperate. In 1920 she appears to have gone to Hampton Va. to become trained and certified as a teacher, I believe at the Hampton Normal Institute. In 1921 her sister Elsie joined her there, also with the intention of becoming a teacher. It’s not clear how their education was financed, but their letters in [S089] speak only of (practice) teaching and also office work in their school(s), never taking classes, so they may have been in a work-study program. More is said about their Hampton life in [R561].

In Hampton Ede met John Nelson. They became engaged in early 1922, and were married in September. Ede became a housewife, for the time, instead of a teacher. They lived in Newport News, where John worked. John was a skilled machinist, with particular talents that were much in demand at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. during the two World Wars. But WWI was over, and by 1924 the shipyard was laying off large numbers of workers. John worried about being terminated himself, and he and Ede agonized about where to go and what work he would do. In 11/1924 he quit the shipyard. By 2/1925 he had found a job in Richmond in real estate, and he and Ede were living in an apartment there. By 7/1925 Ede, too, was working in real estate. (Hunter Van Lear’s [S136] testimony: “...the Laburnum Real Estate Corporation... they had all men salesmen in there. And she was able to convince them that they ought to give her a try, and see if she couldn’t sell some real estate. And so they did, and I believe she probably became the best salesperson they had over a period of years... She was a woman’s rights person ‘way before [their] time. She believed it and she practiced it, and was successful at it... she was a good businesswoman, and aggressive, and hard-working, and I admired her immensely.”)

A month later, Ede and John were in Florida. That state was having a major real estate boom, and the two of them participated in it. She wrote her parents under the letterhead CORAL GABLES / Miami Riviera / 40 Miles of Water Front / Office of Herbert H. Pate, Miami City Sales Manager: “...A steady stream of people are rushing in each day and paying the most fabulous prices for a spot to lay their head. The highest of all is rents and real estate― the food and such things are not so much higher than in Virginia. Of course the markets are full of home grown vegetables, and we get all of the fruit we want for nothing. There are acres of trees ladened with fruit which have been sold off in lots and the ground is covered with fruit. Seems a shame to see bushels of grapefruit and oranges go to waste. We keep piles of it in our room all of the time, and right now I have a wash tub and a box full of grapefruit under our bed to send to you. We are just waiting to get a crate and some wire... We say if we can make enough we are certainly going to have a home here for next winter and have you all with us. I would give worlds for you Dad to see the development, and speculation, while Mam will enjoy the flowers and beauties.” They spent the winter in Florida. In April of 1926 they made an excursion to Cuba, then returned to Virginia.

Ede spent the rest of her professional career at the Laburnum Real Estate Corporation. She and John were both realtors as late as 1928, but at some point John left the profession. My impression is he was not temperamentally suited to be a realtor. He lacked the gift of gab (this was no problem with Ede). During WWII John resumed work at the Newport New Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. He and Ede had to live apart in that time, she remaining in Richmond. John became the silent partner in the later years of their marriage.

Ned Poyser’s [see R559] obituary of Ede in the Richmond Times-Dispatch includes the following summary of her accomplishments: “In 1925, [Mrs. Nelson] became the first female real estate salesperson in Richmond and was, for many years, one of the leading brokers in Richmond. Mrs. Nelson was an active member of the First Baptist Church of Richmond and of the Palmore Sunday School Class. From 1941 to 1947, she chaired the organization that put on dances for the servicemen at Camp Lee. She had been a member of Altrusa International for 62 years. She served as District Governor in 1940 to 1946, and was International President from 1957 to 1959. In 1978, the Altrusa Club of Richmond established the Edith W. Nelson Scholarship Fund in her honor. Altrusa International awarded her the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award in 1987” (Fig. R558c).

Ede made numerous trips abroad in her capacity as the President of Altrusa International. In 1960 she visited my wife and me at Cambridge University in England, where I was spending a year as a student.

Ede accomplished more in the world than any of her brothers and sisters. Many people who rise high from humble origins have outsized egos. It would be nice to say Ede was an exception to this rule, but unfortunately it is not the case [see S146]. In attempting to explain her origins to members of the media who interviewed her, she took to referring lightheartedly to Bath County as “the briar patch” or “the rock pile.” Not everyone in Bath County found this amusing.

Sources: [S003, S052, S089]