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Louisiana Women: Dorothy Dix, Janet Mary Riley, The Baroness Pontalba

Louisiana Women: Dorothy Dix, Janet Mary Riley, The Baroness Pontalba

Louisiana Women Book CoverBaroness Pontalba, daughter of Andres Almonester, survived an attack by her father-in-law and won a legal separation from her husband that gave her the right to manage her fortune. With that, she decided to become a builder, like her father.

Dorothy Dix, whose husband was mentally ill, was hired at the Times Picayune by owner-editor Eliza Jane Nicholson and became America's first advice columnist.

Janet Mary Riley, educated by the Ursulines, remained single her entire life. A lawyer and a member of the Loyola law faculty, in the 1970s she led the fight to reform the old "head and master" provision of Louisiana's community property system and replace it with "equal management" by both spouses. A humble person of remarkable character and fortitude, she kept secret from all who knew and worked with her a religious commitment that strengthened and guided her through the hostility and ostracism that accompanied her work as a leader of the movement to end gender discrimination in Louisiana law.


Janet Allured is Professor of History and Women's Studies at McNeese State University. She teaches courses in the history of the New South, Louisiana, American women, and twentieth-century United States. She is co-editor of Louisiana Women:  Their Lives and Times, volume 1, and of Louisiana Legacies: Readings in the History of the Pelican State. Her article about Janet Mary Riley, the leader of the effort to overturn the "Head and Master" law in Louisiana, is in Louisiana Women, vol. 2, and an article about Methodist women in Louisiana appeared in the April 2016 issue of Methodist History. Her latest book is Remapping Second-Wave Feminism: The Long Women’s Rights Movement in Louisiana, 1950-1997. Dr. Allured's talk is entitled "On their own:  three remarkable Louisiana women who made a difference."