Nell Battle Lewis
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Nell Battle Lewis
Nell Battle Lewis
Nell Battle Lewis of Raleigh.jpg
Born 28 May 1893
Died 26 November 1956
Nationality United States of America
Education Smith College

Nell Battle Lewis (May 28, 1893 - November 26, 1956) was an American journalist and lawyer in North Carolina. She was an advocate for worker's and women's rights, and at the end of her career the threat of communism, and perhaps the best known female advocate for racial segregation.[1]

Early life and education

Cornelia Battle Lewis was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, the daughter of Richard Henry Lewis, a doctor and medical school professor. Her mother was Mary Gordon Lewis, who died when Cornelia was three years old. She was named for her father's first wife, Cornelia Battle, and raised in the home of her father's third wife, Annie Blackwell Lewis. Cornelia's older brother was botanist Ivey Foreman Lewis.[2]

She graduated from high school at St. Mary's School in Raleigh in 1911,[3] and earned an undergraduate degree at Smith College in 1917.[4]


Immediately after college she worked about a year with the National City Bank in New York City. In 1918, she went to France as part of the YWCA's wartime work for American forces there. She was back in North Carolina by 1920 working at the Raleigh News and Observer. Her long-running society page column, "Incidentally," launched in 1921, making her that newspaper's first female columnist. She was known as "Battling Nell" for her many efforts for women's rights, workers' rights, improved education and public health in North Carolina.[4]

Outside her newspaper work, Lewis did publicity work for the Board of Charities and Public Welfare, the League of Women Voters, the State Federation of Women's Clubs, and the Legislative Council. She ran unsuccessfully for the state legislature in 1928.[4] In 1929, she was admitted to the North Carolina bar. She did not practice law full-time, but used her qualifications to defend a group of women's reformatory inmates accused of arson.[5] She published a report on the practice of capital punishment in North Carolina. Her ongoing writing projects included a textbook, a biography of Dorothea Dix, and a novel.[4]

Her politics changed significantly late in her career, with frequent columns against the threat of communism at the University of North Carolina,[6] and defenses of racial segregation in Southern schools.[7]

Personal life

Nell Battle Lewis died in 1956, aged 63 years, after a heart attack.[8] Her gravesite is in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. Some of her papers are archived in the North Carolina state archives.[9]

A biography of Nell Battle Lewis, Battling Nell: The Life of Southern Journalist Nell Battle Lewis, 1893-1956 by Alexander S. Leidholdt, was published by Louisiana State University Press.[10]


  1. ^ Alexander S. Leidholdt, Showdown on Mr. Jefferson's Lawn, Virginia Magazine of History & Biography Vol 122 Issue 3 (2014)
  2. ^ Elizabeth Gillespie McRae, "Nell Battle Lewis: The Political Journal of a Liberal White Supremacist" in Michelle Gillespie and Sally G. McMillen, eds., North Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times Vol. 2 (University of Georgia Press 2015): 120-143. ISBN 9780820340012
  3. ^ "St. Mary's Addressed by Dr. Mims" Raleigh Times (May 25, 1911): 2. via Newspapers.comopen access publication - free to read
  4. ^ a b c d Mollie C. Davis, "Nell (Cornelia) Battle Lewis" in William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (University of North Carolina Press 1991).
  5. ^ Susan Cahn, "Spirited Youth or Fiends Incarnate: The Samarcand Arson Case and Female Adolescence in the American South" in Pippa Holloway, ed., Other Souths: Diversity and Difference in the U. S. South, Reconstruction to Present (University of Georgia Press 2008): 208-234. ISBN 9780820329840
  6. ^ Louis Kraar, "The 'Battle-Ax' Takes Another Slam at UNC" Daily Tar Heel (Marcy 22, 1955): 2. via Newspapers.comopen access publication - free to read
  7. ^ Elizabeth Gillespie McRae (July 2004). "To Save a Home: Nell Battle Lewis and the Rise of Southern Conservatism, 1941-1956". The North Carolina Historical Review. North Carolina Office of Archives and History. 81 (3): 261-287. JSTOR 23523120.
  8. ^ "Heart Attack Takes Editor-Writer; Nell Battle Lewis Dies" Robesonian (November 27, 1956): 1. via Newspapers.comopen access publication - free to read
  9. ^ Nell Battle Lewis Papers, State Archives, North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh NC.
  10. ^ Alexander S. Leidholdt, Battling Nell: The Life of Southern Journalist Nell Battle Lewis, 1893-1956 (Louisiana State University Press 2009). ISBN 9780807134559

Further reading

  • Pyron, Darden Asbury (1985). "Nell Battle Lewis (1893 - 1956) and 'The New Southern Woman.'". Perspectives on the American South. Gordon and Breach. 3: 63-76. ISSN 0275-584X.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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