Mary Holt Woolfolk Carlton was born March 6, 1915, the
daughter of Algar Woolfolk and Louise McCarthy Woolfolk. A
Richmond native, she is the granddaughter of Carlton McCarthy,
once mayor of Richmond.
She attended Westhampton College of the University of
Richmond and received a Bachelors degree in Social Science
from William and Mary in 1955 and a Masters in Social Work in
1961 from Richmond Professional Institute (now VCU). She
worked as a family counselor. She was married to Louis C.
Carlton became active in women's issues in 1969. She was a
charter member and treasurer of the Virginia Women's Political
Caucus and co-founded, along with Zelda Nordlinger, the
Richmond Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW).
She chaired NOW's Women in Religion National Task Force and
was active in advocating increased involvement of women within
the church and of elimination of sexism found in biblical
literature. She was an active member of St. Paul's Episcopal
Church. Carlton also served on NOW's Compliance and
Enforcement Task Force and corresponded with various
businesses on their employment policies regarding women. She
was also a member in the Ginter Park Garden Club and the
Ginter Park Woman's Club.
She participated in the integration of Thalhimer's Men's
Soup Bar in August of 1970 and of the Miller & Rhoades Tea
Room a year later. Throughout the 1970s, she gave speeches
advocating the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and
corresponded with numerous legislators about the matter. She
frequently wrote letters expressing her opinion on women's
issues to both Richmond newspapers, the Richmond
Times-Dispatch and Richmond News-Leader, various magazines,
columnists, and broadcasters. Carlton and other activists have
been credited in convincing Richmond Newspapers Inc. to end
their segregation of their want-ad job classifications by
gender in 1973.
The collection documents Carlton's activities as an
activist in the emerging women's movement of the 1970s and
includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, publications,
and other materials dating mostly from the 1970s. Much of the
correspondence includes copies of the letters Carlton sent and
the replies she received.
One of the most significant portions of the collection
pertains to Carlton's activities, and those of other local
supporters, regarding passage of the Equal Rights Amendment
(ERA), including correspondence with fellow activists and with
state and national elected officials. Various publications,
from newspaper clippings and journal articles to pamphlets and
leaflets, are also included in the collection.
Materials relating to Carlton's interest in the changing
role of women in the church, both within the Episcopal church
and in other denominations in general, is also represented.
Her involvement within Richmond's St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is documented and includes correspondence with controversial
Episcopal Bishop John "Jack" S. Spong.
Carlton also served on NOW's Compliance and Enforcement
Task Force and the collection includes correspondence between
Carlton and various businesses, both locally and nationally,
on their employment policies regarding women.