Frances Brand

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Frances “The Purple Lady” Brand. Photo credit: Charlottesville Woman

Frances Christian Brand (also known as Frances "The Purple Lady" Brand; February 7, 1901-November 19, 1990) was a local artist whose most-celebrated work was a collection of portraits called "Firsts" - images of local people who were pioneers in a field or endeavor. [1] In the 1970s, Brand undertook a series of portraits of individuals from Charlottesville and Albemarle County that would become the Gallery of “Firsts.” This collection had at least 157 portraits of local people that Brand believed to be the first to do something. [2]

Born in New York, Frances Brand married a military man with whom she had two children. At the age of 41, she joined the army where she spent a 10 year career as a liaison (particularly in Germany working with children affected by the Nazi regime), ultimately becoming an army major. [1] Brand once said she was asked out by Al Capone and was once arrested for civil disobedience at a protest organized by Martin Luther King Jr. [3]

Upon her retirement, she studied art at Mexico City College (now the University of Mexico) for five years. [4][dead link]

Frances Christian Brand died at the age 89 in Charlottesville on November 19, 1990. The details of her burial remain unknown.[5]


Her collection of "Firsts" reflects the influence of the Mexican folk painting she studied.[6]

The "Firsts" were primarily painted between 1974-78 and include 157 portraits (although some may be part of her "modern madonna" series).[7] The subjects are "people that Mrs. Brand had met and befriended in Charlottesville or Albemarle County, people whose strength of character she admired." Many of her portraits were of notable women in the community or of civil rights leaders. Subjects include Nancy K. O'Brien, the first woman mayor of Charlottesville, Cornelia Johnson, the city's first female African-American police officer, and Jill Rinehart, the first woman elected to city council. [3]

The Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society owns the collection. [8]

A museum has been opened at the site of her home at 111 Washington Avenue in the Jefferson Park Avenue neighborhood. The house was painted purple to honor Brand's penchant to dress in purple. [3] However, her granddaughter [citation needed] sold the house in February 2012. [9]

2022 video by Maupintown Media



' '
Ruth Klüger Angress Jewish survivor of Concentration Camp who later taught philosophy at UVA in the Fall of 1973 who resigned in 1976 over disagreement with UVA administration
Anne Mae Bailey Introduced French into Charlottesville Public Schools, President of the [Albemarle Arts Association], founded what would become Bailey Park at U.S. 250 & Hillcrest
Tim T.L.W. "Tillie" Bailey Jr. First "cotton technologist" for the Foreign Agriculture Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and during World War II was a leading 'microscopist'
Charles L. Barbour First Black Mayor of Charlottesville
Rev. Arie D. Bestebreurtje Minister at First Presbyterian Church on Park St. (1966-1981), active in Dutch Resistance during World War II
Sarah Patton Boyle Author of The Desegregated Heart, first white person on the board of the C'ville Chapter of the NAACP
Frances Brand Self portrait of the artist
Gina Alycia Brooks Miss NAACP USA, article July 8, 1977, father Van B. Brooks Jr.
Drewary John Birchard Brown One of the founders of Monticello Area Community Action Agency (MACAA) anti-poverty agency
John Brown Bunn broadcaster "wanted by local FBI for not having certain certificates" 1974 ran one of the few commercial cable radio stations in U.S.
Benjamin F. Bunn Founder of local NAACP and minister of Main Street Baptist Church. Married Imogene Bunn on June 10, 1939
Imogene Morgan Bunn First Black nurse to be in charge of city nurses. Married Benjamin F. Bunn on June 10, 39
E. Wells Bunyea CBS radio announcer with his alter-ego "Aunt Emma" AM107
Catherine Lynn Burke First female Rhodes Scholar at University of Virginia in 1976, the first year that was open to women
Brenda Burrough first African American female page
Gail Burton Jones Area's first African American female mail carrier
James R. Butler First African American elected to Alb Co Board of Supervisors, first Afric. Amer. chief of an Extension Office (Alb.) in VA, Baker-Butler
Margaret McLeod Cain Attorney named as a member of the Daily Progress' "Distinguished Dozen"
Grace H. Carpenter First woman elected president of YMCA in 1974, broker
Martha S. Carpenter Woman on the first team of radio astronomers, UVA
Duanne Carter President of Soroptimists International Club, professional women who provide volunteer service to their communities
Ruth Harvey Charity First Black woman on National Democratic Committee, from Danville
Eliot Candee Clark President of the National Watercolor Society of the U.S.
Mary Williams Clark First female orthopedic surgeon at UVA's (Kluge) Children's Rehab. Ctr. in 1977
Otelia Abbott Coles Mortician
Rob Coles Fifth great grandson of Thomas Jefferson who played that role for many years
Elizabeth "Babs" Conant Expert on lung fish and part of creation of Ivy Creek Natural Area
Nincie Cornelia Darby Currier Founding member of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Arts Association
Joy Suzanne Dallas Eshelman Among the first of the African American females to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point
Opal D. David First woman elected to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
Amy Doggett First woman to graduate from the Naval ROTC program at University of Virginia
Mattie Dudley Had her Medicaid benefits suspended in 1982 because she transferred a pre-paid funeral plan worth $1200 but Governor Chuck Robb later waived penalties
Gertrude Ballou Dunbar Served overseas during World War II and a genealogist
Ann Fulton Humphreys Dyer Among the first women to graduate from UVA Medical School and a medical missionary
Mary Ann Elwood First female chair of the Charlottesville Democratic Committee, 1978-1982; President of Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce, 1986-1990
Dorothy Emerson Volunteer extraordinaire, retired from Church Women United, Meals On Wheels, missionary in India
Frances Farmer Head Librarian of UVA Law School 1942-76, 1979 started Oral History of UVA Law School's Second Century 1927-2027
Francis H. Fife City Council 1970-78, Mayor 1972-74
Dr. Frank Finger UVA Professor of Psychology, wresting coach, runner
Nancy Flint Founder of First Night Virginia, Charlottesville's New Years Eve celebration
Evelyn Patricia Foote Brigadier General in Army
Mary Elizabeth Forbes She was married to 72-year-old widower who advertised for a second wife
James N. Galloway Environmental science and air quality issues
Nina Garfield First woman president of Temple Beth Israel
Paul Conrad Garrett UVA law grad, 1971; First African American as Charlottesville City Attorney, 1976; Charlottesville City Clerk of Circuit Court, 1981
Mary L. Garwood & Rebecca C. Haas area's first women firefighters
Paul M. Gaston Author of The New South Creed: A Study in Southern Mythmaking, UVA professor, civil rights leader
Cynthia Malloy Gatton Founder of UVA Chapter of Pi Beta Phi in 74 or 75, 77 BS in EDSA, m. Malloy
Vivian V. Gordon First African American woman on UVA faculty to receive tenure, grant to research interracial relations
Ronald C. Gordon A paralyzed individual who founded organization to invent Assistive Technology for Individuals with disabilities
Mary Gore Gardener at St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Rea Mary Coates Gore Burnette Woman carpenter in area
William A. Guthrie TBD
Bessie Guy President of Charlottesville Church Women United; gospel singer for the State Department during World War II who sang for troops oversees. Known for "The Green Pastures" spirituals by Hall Johnson, in film and Europe
Nancy Hale Bowers First woman journalist on the New York Times
Beverly A. Hankins First female faculty at UVA McIntire School of Commerce and a working mother who commuted to DC. Involved with the restoration of Ford Theatre
Sheila Vega Hardy Founder of UVA branch of Delta Epsilon Omega, an African American fraternity/sorority who graduates in 1975 with a B.S. in Nursing
William McKinley "Bill" Harris Founding Dean of UVA Afro-American Affairs Office to promote the welfare of Black students who served in that position from August 1976 to July 1982
Carolyn B. "Karen" Hartsock A young girl who saved her brother and sister in house fire on 6/13/82
Satyendra Singh Huja Became Charlottesville's Director of Planning & Community Development in 1973 who oversaw the creation of the pedestrian Downtown Mall. Would late become first Sikh Mayor
Charlotte Jennings Yancey Humphris Queen of the First Annual Charlottesville Apple Harvest Festival in 1950, served on Albemarle County Board of Supervisors from 1989 to 2001
John & Mary Israel A couple funded by Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., US-China People's Friendship Association
Alice Wesley Ivory first Black member of the Arts Association known for her sculpture and art
Margaret Jefferson TBD
Dr. Nathan Johnson First African American faculty member at the University of Virginia School of Education from 1967 to 1979 who also served six years as Associate Director of UVA Desegregation Center
Cornelia Johnson First African American woman on the City police force beginning in 1976 and third female officer
Donald W. Jones African American assistant to President of UVA, Frank Hereford
Richard Chapin Jones First state forester for Virginia, appointed March 1, 1915 who also taught Forestry at UVA until 1928
Frances Ramsey Joseph Founded July 4th Scottsville Festival
Marion Kanour First woman Army ROTC graduate at the University of Virginia
Ellie Wood Page Keith First woman to have city street named after her, horseback riding teacher
Alice Gertrude Whitten Kelso Member of American Association of University Women
Hazel Hopkins Key Assistant librarian in the UVA School of Law; employed 50 years at UVA
Heinz Kramp Founder of Innisfree Village in 1971, a therapeutic cooperative community with adults with mental disabilities; 1991 started "The Bridge"
Suzy M. Thomas & Nathan Lane Tom built Frances Brand's galleries, studied architecture
Charles "Chuck" Langham Founder of SCROOGE - Society to Curtail Ridiculous Outrageous & Ostentatious Gift Exchanges
Lyn Lee Doctor
David Lee Taiwanese diplomat who earned both of his graduate degrees from the University of Virginia, lived with Brand of Virginia
Sandra Levine Restored the local American Association of University Women and helped found the Piedmont Council of the Arts in 1979
Priscilla Little Founding member of FOCUS Women's Resource Center and an elder at Westminster Presbyterian Church in 1983
Mr. Liu First UVA graduate student from China
Adah Anita Lotti One of the first women doctors in the area and a graduate of the of UVA Medical School in 1925, the first class to include women
John Christian Lowe International lawyer, cofounder of Camp Faith
Dumas Lowe Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Biographer-in-Residence, professor emeritus of history at UVA
John "Jack" Eacott Manahan Local eccentric, married Anna Anderson
Anna Anderson Manahan Claimed to be Anastasia, daughter of Czar Nicholas II of Russia
Ora Ann Maupin Charlottesville Commissioner of the Revenue for 45 years in mid-20th century
George & Ruth Maverick Friends of Frances Brand - the words "lynch" and "maverick" originate from their family name
Ellen Dale McCallin First seminarian planning to be a priest
Irina Igorevna Estakhova McClellan Married UVA Russian History Professor Woodford D. McClellan on 5/4/1974 in Moscow and they were reunited 1/30/1986. Author of "Of Love & Russia"
Irene Berry Norvelle McCormick Brand described her as a "specialist in living because her life is so rich and also did beautiful quilting." McCormick lived to age 107 in Covesville
Sally Meade SPCA
John F. Merchant First Black graduate of UVA School of Law in 1958
Henry Mitchell First African American member/chairperson of the Charlottesville City School Board, priest at Trinity Episcopal
Gertrude Mitchell First African American member of the local AAUW; First Black employee of Army Foreign Science & Tech Center; First Black female civil servant in Region 3 of federal Health, Education, and Welfare Department
Beatrice "Bea" Mook First woman to deliver baby using Lamaze methods, 2007 publicist for The Jefferson Area Board For Aging
Martha Brown Morrison First Charlottesville-Albemarle member of the famous 99's, the International Organization of Women Pilots; Became a licensed pilot in 1941; moved to Charlottesville in 1968
Edith K. Mosher Developed teaching methods; co-author "ESEA The Office of Education Administers A Law" in 1968
Susan & Sandra Murray First girls on boy's soccer team with the City League in C'ville, attended AHS
Ellen “Enie” Virginia Nash First woman to practice law on Charlottesville's Court Square; Second woman on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
Marion Nolan m. Stanton
Nancy O'Brien First female mayor of Charlottesville
Doris Overcash First female mail carrier of Charlottesville
Julia Pace First white woman on the Charlottesville police force
Yvette Parsons Patient advocate, ombudsman, University of Virginia Hospital
Camilla Payne First teacher of arts in local public schools
Sara A. Payne First female minister of Presbyterian Church in Crozet
Catherine G. "Kay" Peaslee First woman to produce a weekly when she founded the Observer in 1978
Elizabeth Pigeon Only woman professor at UVA in the early 1900s; founded Charlottesville chapter of AAUW
Anna Lucia Puerta First flag woman in area
Elbert L. Radford Scottsville
Booker Reaves First African American to receive master's degree from UVA
Brenda C. Richmond Prominent female women mystery writers in the area, wrote Rena under pen name B. Gayle pub. 1977
Amy Carter Reid African American woman Baptist minister ordained 1944, president of Charlottesville Church Women United
Glenda F. Richardson First female welder in the area
Jill Tietsort Rinehart First woman on Charlottesville City Council, 1972-1976
Leslie E. Rudolf First doctor to perform kidney transplant in area, and member of American Society Of Transplant Surgeons
Ralph L. Jr. Sampson Basketball player for UVA 1979-1983; at UVA was three-time College Player of the Year; professional basketball player, 1983-1992
Virginia Ann Scott First woman who sued to open UVA to women, 1969
Elizabeth Seabrook Became executive director of the Senior Center in 1979 and Woman of the Year in 1989
Jannene L. Shannon First female judge in the area
W. Ralph Singleton First from area to perfect a hybrid corn which then was grown all over the world
William Spence Smith Presbyterian minister, community workshops, at Westminster 1969-88
Zengxuan Song Painting- "TC-1 Cell Line" lab coat, bottle
William A. Stickle First Roman Catholic chaplain to UVA 1959-75; founded St. Thomas Aquinas 1963
Gregory Hayes Swanson First African American who sued to open UVA to African Americans, applied in 1950 at age 26, lawyer from Danville
Kathryn C. Thornton Astronaut, selected by NASA in May 1984, became astronaut in July 1985, physicist
Grace L. Tinsley First African American member of Charlottesville Board of Education
Elizabeth Nelson Tompkins 1st woman graduate of UVA School of Law 1923, 23-25 law office of Judge Duke, 1925 on in Richmond
Paul Toomey Champion ice skater from area, field research in India, later in Boston
Mary Updike Started Meals on Wheels in area
Otis Updike Professor Emeritus of chemical and biochemical engineering at UVA, worked with NASA, 41 BS CHE
Joseph Lee Vaughan First UVA Provost
Teresa Jackson Walker-Price One of the first African American librarians in the local school system
Miriam Cooper Walsh First female Hollywood star in the area
Hong Kui Wang First scholar from mainland China to come to UVA, computer expert 1980's, holding "Edward A. Parish Jr. Elec ENGR, Computers"
Constance Chandler Ward First woman from St. Paul Church to become a priest Feb. 1978
Linwood Hughes Warwick Geologist for Virginia for 50 years, 1908-1959, U.S. Geological Survey
Randolph Louis White Charlottesville-Albemarle Tribune
Eugene Williams Buys and renovates houses to rent or sell, 1954 pres. of local NAACP
David Wilson Founded the School of Psychiatry at University of Virginia, worked for race relations
Margaret Wood First woman hired by UVA to teach stress training, Soroptimist Int'l
Jay Worrall Founder of Offender Aid & Restoration June 1970, Colonel in Army, Quaker (MACH Vol. 40), founder of & 1st exec dir of MACAA

Video presentation


External Links

1987 interview with Frances Brand about her interactions with civil rights leaders, provided by the University of Virginia Library


  1. 1.0 1.1 Web. Remarkable "firsts" in Charlottesville, Lynn Rainville, Blog Post, Loco History, July 27, 2008, retrieved May 4, 2022.
  2. Web. Frances Brand’s “Firsts” Collection, Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, August 8, 2023, retrieved August 8, 2023.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Web. Purple Gain: France Brand's house gets painted, Maxey Hackworth, The Hook (via, January 30, 2003, retrieved June 22, 2022.
  4. Web. [ Our Firsts, Great and Small], Aleta Burchyski, Charlottesville Woman, March 1, 2011, retrieved January 26, 2012.
  5. Web. Frances Christian "The Purple Lady" Brand, A. L. Parrish, Website, Find a Grave, September 7, 2009, retrieved May 28, 2024.
  6. Web. Online Exhibit: France Brand Collection Exhibit, Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, retrieved May 28, 2024.
  7. Web. 'Firsts' and how they last, Sarah Sargent, News Article, C-VILLE Weekly, January 9, 2024, retrieved May 28, 2024.
  8. Web. Online Exhibit: France Brand Collection Exhibit, Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, January 30, 2003, retrieved May 28, 2024.