Reflections: Kinney Heath ahead of the times

By Evelyn Long - Contributing Columnist


Courtesy photo

One of my favorite individuals whom I have described during the past 42 years is Evva Kinney Heath. The Cardington native graduated from Cardington High School in 1897; and by 1904 she was an attorney in Washington, D C.

One of her first accomplishments as an attorney in Washington was to establish the legal status of women’s property rights in a test case in the District of Columbia.

Evva was born Feb. 10, 1880 in Cardington. Her interest in education was encouraged by her mother, Louisa, who had been widowed at the age of 26 with three small children. Evva’s father, David Kinney (spelled Kenney in the early days) was 85 years old when she was born.

Her parents had married just 10 years earlier. David fathered a son and a daughter before Evva was born. She was two years old when her father died. In an era when very few youngsters went to school past the eighth grade, the three Kinney children all graduated from Cardington High School.

During graduation seniors were required to give an on oration during the Commencement exercises. Evva’s was titled “The Reserve Brigade.” Following graduation she attended a Columbus college, taught grade school in Bramwell, Virginia, and later earned her law degree from Howard University in 1905.

While practicing in Washington, D. C Evva championed women’s property rights and demonstrated an impressive elocution talent while addressing literary societies and other groups.

In letters possessed by the only living descendant of Evva (in 1998) DeWitt Bonner and his wife, Alfreda, of Delaware, Evva penned her school challenges to her mother.

Told by her superiors the would have to paddle, she wrote her mother “I put down the hammer of Jeremiah.” In another letter, she said her salary was $8 per week, $32 per term and $192 for six months.

While teaching one year in Bramwell, she met Henry Heath, also a teacher, whom she married on January 1, 1899 and both entered Howard University Law School in Washington, D C. She was the only female in her class of 22 when she graduated May 30, 1904. Her many letters written

to her mother described various events in Washington. Her elocution talent was heard through readings given before leading literary societies in Washington. It was while practicing law there, that she became known for her championing of women’s property rights.

Sadly, Evva’s life ended at the age of 29, when following a year long illness she died in 1909. Her obituary was a tribute to her ability and accomplishments and described her happy marriage and her “pretty” home and her devout faith.

Alfreda said of her husband’s great aunt: “I think Cardington school should be commended for preparing a 16-17 year-old girl to be able to speak and write and express with such clarity.”


By Evelyn Long

Contributing Columnist