My great-great grandmother may have looked all prim and repressed in her high-necked 19th-century garb (see portrait above), but Louisa Nelson was made of strong stuff. When her husband Charles died in 1891, she picked up the reins of his whiskey company, becoming one of the first women in the country to run a commercial distillery. And that’s before women could even vote.
Louisa closed the thriving whiskey business upon Prohibition in 1909, but today the reincarnated Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, run by my nephews Andy and Charlie Nelson, remembers her leadership with awards recognizing women excelling in their industries and making a positive impact in Nashville. (Andy and Charlie also named their 750-gallon copper-and-brass still for her. See picture below of my precious niece on her recent first visit to her great-great-great granny’s namesake, “Miss Louisa.”)
In 2016, the first recipients of the Louisa Nelson Award included Leatrice McKissack, whose architecture firm contributed to the design of projects ranging from Pearl High School in Nashville to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, and Vali Forrister, founder of Act Like a Grrrl autobiographical writing program for girls age 12-18.
If the inaugural event was any indication, the second annual awards ceremony is going to be a damn-good (and free!) party in the Oak Room at Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, with hors d’oeuvres by Clean Plate Club, dessert by Karla’s Catering, and no shortage of Tennessee whiskey.
Hope to see you Monday, Sept. 18, 6 to 8 p.m., at 1414 Clinton Street.