Lucy Rawlings Tootell

Inducted: 2013
Born: 11/27/1911
Died: 01/05/2010

Lucy R. Tootell was an American schoolteacher, historian, and politician who served in the Rhode Island House of Representatives, representing District 52 from 1973 until 1977. Following the family tradition of public service, her father, Roy Willard Rawlings, was the Republican Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. Her brother, Rob Roy Rawlings, was a long-time state senator. In 1941, she became vice president of the Wood River Branch Railroad when her father moved to Florida, a position she held until the railroad’s abandonment in 1947. She was one of, if not the only, women to have such a position in the United States at the time.

As the wife of 1924 Olympic Gold medalist and Rhode Island Hall of Fame inductee (1968) Fred Tootell (teacher, coach, and athletic director of the University of Rhode Island), Lucy was a champion in her field, whether it be in the school classroom, or telling tales out of school in the six historical societies she founded in South Kingston, Charlestown, and Richmond. Lucy was a lecturer and an author of many local history publications, books, and slide shows. She helped organize and was elected the first president of the Pettaquamscutt and Richmond Historical Societies and helped organize the Charlestown Historical Society. She was a board member of the League of Rhode Island Historical Societies and was an active member of the Richmond and National Grange. She also served as Council Commissioner of the Rhode Island Girl Scout Organization. 

In 1970, Lucy was elected to the Richmond School Committee and was selected as “Woman of the Year” by the Chariho Business and Professional Women’s Club in 1974. She spoke with President Gerald Ford in the Rose Garden of the White House as a Rhode Island representative of the American Bicentennial Commission in 1975. Lucy received the “John Nicholas Brown Award presented by The League of Rhode Island Historical Societies in 1982. In 1997, in recognition of her distinguished achievements in the field of history preservation, she was presented with The Honorary Degree of Humane Letters at the University of Rhode Island. 

Lucy was born on November 27, 1911, in Jacksonville, Illinois, the daughter of Lucy Irene Gammell Rawlings, a dramatic arts director at Rhode Island State College, now the University of Rhode Island. The family moved to South Kingstown, Rhode Island, in 1913 when she was two years old. She attended South Kingstown High School and graduated with honors in 1929. Lucy also graduated with honors from Rhode Island College of Education in 1933 and taught at Roger Williams Junior High School and the Richmond Elementary School. She attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts at New York University in 1934 and was offered the directorship of Northwestern University’s famed children’s theater but returned to Rhode Island instead. 

Before her political career, she taught at Roger Williams Junior High School in Providence and Richmond Elementary School in Richmond. Her educational background made her a champion for securing the Bell House in Richmond for the Richmond Historical Society. During the Rhode Island bicentennial of Independence observance, she edited and wrote portions of the commemorative volume Driftways to the Past, a history of the Town of Richmond. 

Lucy brought her sense of the dramatic, her administrative skills, and her sheer enthusiasm to public programs at the Little Rest Museum in Kingston and as the first president of the Pettaquamscutt Historical Society. She helped to organize the Charlestown Historical Society and chaired Rhode Island Heritage Month as a member of the Board of the League of Rhode Island Historical Societies.

Lucy died on January 5, 2010, at the age of ninety-eight. She was inducted into The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 2013

For further reading:

1. Wilson, Iain; Gomes, Derrick (April 19, 2013). “Two South County women among inductees to Heritage Hall of Fame”. The Independent, May 27, 2020.

2. Hall, James Lowell (2015). Lillibridge Houses expanded version. 

3. “Class notes: 1933” (PDF). Rhode Island College Alumni Magazine. 2013–2014. 

6. Kennedy, J. B. (2018). Two tickets on the Wood River Train: The Life and Times of the Wood River Branch Railroad. Watertown, NY.

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