Franklin County Visitor’s Bureau celebrates Women’s History Month by recognizing important women of Franklin County. By far, the first lady of Franklin County is Harriet Lane, who actually served as “First Lady” when she was the White House hostess for her uncle, 15th President James Buchanan. She also served in a similar role when Buchanan was a diplomat in England. For more information about Harriet Lane’s contributions, read Harriet Lane Johnston (May 9, 1830 to July 3 1903) by Joan C. McCulloh of the Mercersburg Historical Society. Download a copy here.
Molly Cochran Corbin, another Franklin County woman, served as a female soldier during the Revolutionary War. As was the customary, she followed her husband to battle and cooked for the soldiers, did their laundry, and even nursed the wounded. In November 1776, at the Battle of Washington, she dressed as a man and joined her husband, helping to load his cannon. He husband was killed in battle, and she took over loading and firing the cannon. She, too, was wounded and could never use her left arm. Because of her service, she received a pension, the first known for a woman. Eventually, after her death, she was buried at West Point with full military honors.
Dolly Harris, as an outspoken and straightforward young woman, confronted General Pickett with the American flag as he and his Confederate troops marched through Greencastle in late June 1863 during the Invasion of Pennsylvania. The local newspaper, The Public Opinion wrote:
“Dolly Harris…rushed to the street in front of the leader of the southern band, waved the stars and stripes in his face and roundly denounced the troopers as traitors to their country, cut throats, and plunderers.”
Years later, another influential woman of Franklin County, Blanche Coyle gave a long-standing gift to Franklin County. As one of the original organizers of the Afternoon Club, she worked on establishing a library in Chambersburg, first as a club-based service and later as a public library. In 1924, from money given by Blanche Coyle, a public library was established at the corner of Queen and Second Street. Today, the Coyle Free Library, housed at North Main and King Streets experienced a transformative upgrade and reopened in December 2017.
The women of Franklin County are difference makers.