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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 498

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This is the grave of Fannie Battle.

Before you note the discrepancy between the spelling of her name on the tombstone and in this post, note that every single reference to her on the internet spells it in the way I did in the post, including the institutions named for her.

Born Mary Frances Battle in 1842 near Nolensville, Tennessee, she attended the Nashville Female Academy. When the South committed treason in defense in slavery, Battle’s family were all about it. Her father and three brothers volunteered for the military. Two her brothers were killed at Shiloh. Her father led his own company and was later a prisoner of war. Fannie herself was committed to the cause of treason in defense of slavery. She worked as a spy for the Confederacy! She and her sister-in-law created fake Union passes and walked into Nashville, by this time retaken by the United States from the traitors. They routinely walked in and out of the city, both reporting to the Confederates on troop movements and smuggling medicine and other critical supplies behind Union lines. In April 1863, they were caught. They should have been shot, but unfortunately, the nation was not prepared to deal with the traitors in a way that would have put down resistance into the future. Instead, they were only imprisoned for a month in Washington before being released.

Upon Battle’s release, she moved to Nashville and became a school teacher. She lived a pretty quiet life until 1881. At that point, still teaching, she felt the need to respond when the Cumberland River flooded and left thousands of people homeless. She volunteered to coordinate much of the relief effort. Battle organized the Nashville Relief Society and provided food, clothing, and coal to over 1,000 people.

Energized by this work, she created a group called United Charities to coordinate relief efforts. Battle left her teaching job in 1886 to run this organization, which she continued to do until her death. This was the same time that the settlement house movement was arising in the North and while Battle did not open a settlement house, she was influenced by their ideas. She opened a daycare program for the children of working parents, which was a common move for settlements. She rented rooms near cotton mills north of Nashville and hired doctors to serve the women who worked there and their children, who sometimes also worked there. The daycare center became the first of its kind in Nashville. Named the Addison Avenue Day Home, it is still open today, but under the name the Fannie Battle Home for Children. She created a summer camp for young mothers and their children outside of Nashville in 1900 as well.

Battle died in 1924, still working on charity issues.

Fannie Battle is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee.

This grave visit was funded by LGM reader contributions. Many thanks!!! If you would like this series to visit other social workers, or Confederate spies for that matter, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Jane Addams is in Cedarville, Illinois and Frances Perkins is in Newcastle, Maine. Neither of them ever committed treason in defense of slavery. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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