The woman who may have inspired Belle Watling, the madam who helps save Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, finally has a stone in Oakland Cemetery, where she was buried in 1908.
Howard was born in Louisiana in 1830 and came to Atlanta after the Civil War. She was a woman without a husband or father and the employment opportunities were not great. She could work as a nanny or companion or take in laundry or she could take advantage of all the men involved in rebuilding Atlanta from the ashes and provide a service that paid a whole lot better. She went to work at the establishment of Julia Thompson and eventually opened her own place.
Last year a volunteer who were playing the part of Abbie Howard during the "Capture the Spirit of Oakland" tour veered from the script to ask visitors to help get Madam Howard a stone.
According to a story from the Associated Press which was picked up by the Dalton Citizen and other papers, Rosalind Hillhouse, while playing Abbie Howard, stated, “I didn’t work in life for free. I don’t want to work for free now." She then asked for help to get a tombstone.
After a visitor responded by writing a check for $1000, other volunteers began to ask for help as well. Visitors gave $10's and $20's and larger checks and as a result Ms. Howard got her stone.
The stone, which cost more than $2,000, all raised by donations, is of Victorian design, and appropriately shaped like a pillow. Hopefully Madam Howard rests peacefully underneath.