Editorial: Cost of political correctness – $17,130.89

Happy Mother’s Day to all of St Augustine and St Johns County’s mothers.  This is the day set aside to honor that one special lady who gave you life, or adopted you into her heart with the promise that she would be sure that you were prepared to make your way into the sometimes harsh big world where you would need patience, understanding, empathy, maturity, judgment, and a hundred other skills that come with being an adult.

According to Historic City News archive sources, the modern holiday was first created and celebrated in the United States in 1908 at the initiative of Ann Reeves Jarvis. However, we have quickly found many traditional celebrations of mothers and motherhood that have existed for thousands of years.

I want to take this moment to remind you of some very special ladies in our local history who we remember on Sunday, May 12th for their motherly love, caring, and something a mother should never have to do; say a final goodbye to their child when they die — even when that “child” has been adopted through heartbreaking circumstances.

The Ladies Memorial Association of St Augustine was founded just eighteen months after the end of the American Civil War while the city was still under federal military control.

The originator of the Ladies Memorial Association was Miss Anna Dummett.  She was made the first president of the association in September of 1866 and was never allowed by the other ladies to give up that post.  She presided over the charitable organization until her death in 1899.

Other prominent members in the Association’s early work were Miss M. J. Llambias, Miss Lucy Abbott and Mrs. Julia Gibbs, wife of Col. George Gibbs, Miss Isabel Benet and Miss Anna Humphrey.  They immediately undertook the task of raising the money needed to erect a memorial which was simply dedicated to “Our Confederate Dead”.

This memorial, originally constructed on Catholic Church property on St George Street in the yard of Bishop Agustin Verot unveiled on May 10, 1872, was relocated and rededicated at its present home in the Plaza de la Constitucion in 1879.

The entire cost of twice constructing the memorial to the memory of forty-four residents who lost their lives during the war, and the cost of marble plaques that were removed, relocated and restored on the new memorial, were paid by these honorable Ladies with private funds raised and donated by members of the community.

Raising the money was difficult and mostly in the smallest sums.  Often, a half dozen or more of the ladies would contribute from their meager food supply the ingredients of a cake and when it was baked, it would be sold, and the money placed in the memorial fund.

The ladies did bits of sewing for money, children practiced for plays to raise money, anything and everything that would bring in a penny for the memorial fund.  We who think it is hard to raise money for a monument fund today, might well be put to shame by these devoted ladies.

So, what has changed, one-hundred and forty years later, that compels a city manager and city commissioners, who were not alive in the 1800’s, to throw in an interpretation of what they think was in the hearts of some of the City’s most prominent citizens? 

  • Many of the forty-four soldiers were of Minorcan descent and were founding members of our community.  Many of their families still live or visit here today.
  • Is it “white guilt” or the personal need to somehow be “politically correct” that gives city government the authority to re-write and re-interpret the grief and mourning in the hearts of the Ladies Memorial Association’s members in the year 1866?
  • And why should St Augustine’s 14,000 taxpayers, the overwhelming majority of which have no interest in disturbing this historic memorial to our city’s war veterans, agree to pay to “contextualize” our authentic history to the tune of $17,130.89, so far.  They were not made to donate to its construction, why should they be made to donate to re-writing its history?

Here’s a test for those of you fortunate enough to still have your mothers with you today.  Go into the kitchen or the living room and tell your mom that your great-great-great grandmother was a white supremacist.  Tell your mother that because her great-great grandmother happened to be alive during the four years between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865 and lived in St Augustine (or anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line during the American Civil War) she was clearly a racist and a bigot and her teenaged boyfriend was a traitor and his death should not be remembered.

Let me know how that works out for you.

The Ladies Memorial Association of St Augustine Inc is a Florida not-for-profit corporation in reorganization for the purpose of establishing the official entity originally organized in September 1866, but never incorporated.  You can sign up for admission to the free facebook group.  Our charitable purposes include erecting or maintaining public buildings or monuments; advancement of education; lessening of prejudice, discrimination, neighborhood tensions; defending human and civil rights.