Margaret White Battle, Person of the Month

MARGARET WHITE BATTLE [19 June 1909 – 24 December 2003] (enlarge picture by clicking on it)

[photo from BY FAITH AND HERTIAGE ARE WE JOINED, edited by T. E. Ricks, (Rocky Mount, NC: Dixie Printing and Publishing Company, 1976): iv.]

Margaret White Battle is the May, 2010 person of the month.  She first arrived at the train station in Rocky Mount in 1933.  In her own words she said, “In 1933, holding my diploma in medicine and not much else, I stepped from the train and was met by a high school boy who said he had a taxi.  He guided me through another passenger train to get to his taxi, and so I missed the doctor’s wife who had been sent to meet me.”

She was the first female doctor at a local hospital and her appointment produced some controversy.  She explains, “The grapevine at the hospital did not waste any time telling me that Dr. Newsom Battle had been thoroughly disgusted that Dr. Willis had accepted me, a woman, as an intern.  Also, that one of the patients had said she did not want to see any woman intern.  (This [person] was to be my future sister-in-law.)”  Also, Dr. Newsom Battle eventually became her husband. So, all is well than ends well.   She concluded the paragraph with,  “.  .  .the hospital staff – doctors, nurses, office people – could not have been nicer to me.”

While Margaret was born in Michigan, over her long life, she died at the age 94, she became one of Nash County’s most important historians.  An indication of her importance in preserving the history of the county is found in a one page tribute to her in the Bicentennial Tribute found in BY FAITH AND HERTIAGE ARE WE JOINED: A COMPILATION OF NASH COUNTY HISTORICAL NOTES, edited by T. E. Ricks, [Rocky Mount, NC: Dixie Printing & Publishing Company, 1976]: vi.  It begins, “What started out totally to be a tribute to Nash County has naturally evolved into a tribute to the singularly most viable force for the recognition and preservation of Nash County history: Dr. Margaret White Battle of Rocky Mount.”

It was through an initial study of her husband’s family that she developed “a keen interest in local history in general.”   Her contributions to the preservation of Nash County history include her: [1] location, identification and cataloguing of over one hundred and seventy old homes, sites and buildings; [2] the years of walking, surveying and cataloguing, along with Dan Smith of Nashville and Martha Gupton of Benevenue, the old family cemeteries throughout the county; [3] her central role in founding the Nash County Historical Association in 1970; [4] frequent speeches to women’s clubs and other local associations about the importance of preserving the county’s history; and [5]  the substantial research and editing of the above cited 1976 book completed as a bicentennial tribute to the county.  Her cemetery surveys, along with those by Martha Gupton, Dan Smith and many others, appear in local libraries under the title:  NASH COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA CHURCH AND FAMILY CEMETERIES, edited by Timothy W. Rackley and Tar River Connections. Two Volumes:  A – J and K – Z [Kernersville, NC: Timothy W. Rackley, c. 1997]

[SOURCES: The Oral History Project, Nash County Arts Council with the above comments found a a story by her that was published in THE CONNECTOR: NEWSLETTER OF THE TAR RIVER CONNECTIONS GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY (Spring, 2001) and BY FAITH AND HERTIAGE ARE WE JOINED: A COMPILATION OF NASH COUNTY HISTORICAL NOTES, edited by T. E. Ricks, (Rocky Mount, NC: Dixie Printing & Publishing Company, 1976): iv.]