Thursday, January 8, 2015

MATTIE HESTER


MATTIE GET YOUR GUN
The Story of Mattie Hester

Mattie Hester was a combination of Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane and a pony express rider. A headstrong woman in a male dominated world, Hester could hold her own with the strongest of brutes. This is a tale of one remarkable woman and her brief moments of fame. Martha "Mattie" Hester was born about the year 1868. Her parents, John and Mary Hester, lived in the southeastern part of Laurens County on the east side of the river in what is still known as Smith's District.

Mattie grew up in an era when mail delivery was intermittent and slow. Condor was established as a post office in 1878. Two years later, an office was established further south along the River Road at Tweed. Most of the mail coming into Laurens County first came into Dublin for distribution to other places throughout the county. It was about 1890 when Mattie was given the job of carrying the mail from Dublin to Condor where she began her route. From Condor, she traveled south three days a week along the Old River Road to Lothair in what was then Montgomery, but which now lies in Treutlen County.

Female mail carriers were rare. The forty-five-mile route was often isolated. Any miscreant looking to steal cash or a valuable document could easily rob a carrier along the road. But Mattie would not be deterred. She hitched a Texas broncho to her small road cart to allow her to outrun any thieves. Her horse, faster than a hemidemisemiquaver in a John Phillip Sousa march, never failed Mattie.

She always got the mail to its destination on time or well ahead of its scheduled arrival. If she was accosted, Mattie was as fearless as anyone. To insure her safety, she carried a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver in her side pocket. Mattie was considered a crack shot, and no one who knew her would ever contemplate trying to take any mail or in anyway impede her delivery schedule. Lacking no doubt about her ability to defend herself against any highwayman or tramp in her path, Mattie Hester held little respect for members of her own sex who feared to venture out into public without an escort.

A prime example of Mattie's determination occurred during a winter rainy spell. After nearly a week of constant rainfall in the summer of 1890, the creeks and streams along the mail route had swollen beyond their banks. Messer's (Mercer's) Creek, which serves as the boundary line between Laurens and Montgomery (now Treutlen) counties had become a raging torrent. The long bridge, usually dependable for most crossings, was in danger of being swept away at any moment. Its abutments were already gone. Upon her arrival at the bridge, Mattie surveyed the perilous situation. Recognizing the danger ahead, but acknowledging the necessity of the mail being delivered, Mattie decided to plunge ahead. "If there is any possible chance to cross, I intended to cross, even if I have to swim," said Mattie. Mattie whipped the hind of her trusty bronco and plunged into the turbulence. Her horse found itself tangled in a patch of vines in five feet of water. Instinctively Mattie cut the helpless horse from its harness. Battling shoulder deep raging currents Mattie persevered, all the time dragging the cart until she could reach the bridge which by then was cover with water itself, but still standing. She managed to make it across and did her pony. After a moment or two of rest, Mattie hitched the drenched horse to the wagon and resumed her journey, albeit she excusably took nearly an hour to travel the remaining seven miles to Lothair.

Mattie's duties at home and the pittance of a salary she received from the Postal Service led to her resignation as a postal carrier. One might think that this fiercely independent, pistol packing and hard charging woman might have a manly image. To the contrary, Mattie was described a reporter for the Atlanta Constitution as "a beauty of a real southern type, wavy black hair, deep blue eyes, beautiful figure and complexion with the whitest teeth imaginable." "Her jaunty air and pretty face never failed to attract the attention of strangers, as she rattled swiftly by in her cart, never looking to the right or to the left, but attending strictly to business," the reporter continued. I

n addition to her admirable qualities of dedication to her work and striking beauty, Mattie was considered to be an astute businesswoman. Following her father's death at a relatively young age in 1890, Mattie took over the management of the family farm. Mattie took part in all phases of the farming operation, from cultivation to planting and from harvesting to marketing to the highest bidder, the latter of which were among her greatest talents. Always looking for a way to improve the income from her home place, Mattie ventured into the woods behind her house and saw money in the trees. She cut some of the trees and personally assembled them into a raft. In the process she had to wade throughout the swamp, sometimes with water up to her waist. Mattie's brother took over at that point and piloted the timber raft down the treacherous waters of the Oconee and Altamaha rivers to the port city of Darien, where the logs were sold at a handsome profit. The venture became so lucrative that Mattie saved a few of the trees and invested some of the income into constructing a split rail fence around the Hester farm. By the best count available, Mattie cut about five thousand rails during her first five years of managing the farm. Mattie spent her spare time teaching young people how to shoot. She also a talent for penmanship and drawing.

Mattie's marksmanship came in handy when someone needed defending. On an early December evening in 18906, a Mr. Palmer was giving a dance party in his home in the Martha community near Tweed. Mattie's entrepreneurial abilities included the sale of spiritous liquors. It was said she sold her stock freely among the male party goers, many of whom found themselves under the influence of Mattie's liquor. As more and more whiskey was consumed, tempers began to flare. Mattie found herself engaged in a heated argument with Henry McLendon. Maggie drew her pistol and shot her antagonist. Mattie's brother rose to her defense, but was brutally beaten about the face with a pair of brass knuckles. Alfred Shell, a steam mill owner, was also shot and seriously wounded.

Mattie seemed to disappear after that. Was she forced to leave the community? If so, where did she go? Did this beautiful and fiercely independent woman ever marry? Maybe one day we will know. 

IRIS FAIRCLOTH BLITCH



A Pioneering Politician



History was made in Georgia 60 years ago this week.  The State of Georgia could claim that two women had served the state in the United States Congress.  Moreover, Gov. Thomas Hardwick, a one time resident of Dublin, had appointed Rebecca Latimer Felton to a seat to fill out the remaining term of the late Senator Thomas E. Watson  in the United States Senate in 1921 as a show of support for the rights of women to vote.



Florence Gibbs was elected in the fall of 1940 to fill out the term of her late husband, Congressman W. Ben Gibbs.   Helen Douglas Mankin won a special election in 1946, with strong support from African American voters, who voted en mass for the first time.



But it was on January 3, 1955 when Iris Faircloth Blitch, took her seat in the Congress as the first woman from Georgia to serve in Congress after being elected in a regular election.    This political activist from the railroad village of Normantown in northern Toombs County had already made her mark in Georgia politics.



Born in the southeastern region of East Central Georgia  on April 25, 1912, as the second youngest of the eight children of James Louis Faircloth and Marietta Rigdell Faircloth, Iris was forced to live with her older sisters when she became an orphan at the age of nine.  Her father's family were natives of Emanuel County.



Blitch graduated from a high school in Hagerstown, Maryland before returning to Georgia to attend classes at the University of Georgia.  She left school to marry Brooks Blitch, a pharmacist from Homerville, Georgia.



With a passion to educate herself, she immersed herself into reading about history and current events and taught herself to become a newspaper writer.    Blitch found her niche in politics and joined the Democratic party, the only viable party in Georgia at the time.



Blitch suffered a narrow defeat in her first political campaign in 1940, losing by slightly more than 25 votes for a seat in the State House of Representatives.  She won her first election in 1946, capturing a seat in the Georgia Senate.  Senator Blitch switched to the other chamber of the Georgia legislature when she was elected to the Georgia House in 1948.  After failing to win reelection in 1950, the attractive, brunette legislator returned to the Georgia Senate in 1952.





Iris Blitch's being a woman led to her being named as a National Committeewoman  from Georgia from 1948 to 1956 to the Democratic National Committee. Blitch also served in a similar state capacity from 1946 to 1956.



In the off-year election of 1954 during Dwight Eisenhower's first term as president, Blitch decided to do the unthinkable - to run for Congress in the Deep South, where women were systematically excluded from nomination by the Democratic party politics.  And she won,  defeating the incumbent, William M. Wheeler.



As the first female in the history of Georgia to win a regular scheduled election for a seat in Congress, Blitch,  entered office on January 3, 1955 and served for ten years, representing the 8th Congressional District, which encompassed counties from Southeast Georgia.  While in the Congress, she served on the Public Works Committee and the National Resources Advisory Council.



Because of her debilitating arthritis, Representative Blitch retired in 1964  and moved to Saint Simons, Georgia, repeatedly turning down repeated requests to run again primarily because of her husband's illness.



A congressional web site writer wrote, "Representative Iris Blitch of Georgia embodied a peculiar mixture of progressive feminism and southern conservatism during her long political career, which included four terms in the U.S. House. As a Georgia state legislator she pushed women's rights concerns. In the U.S. House, while displaying considerable legislative ability, she hewed to more traditional lines, advocating on behalf of agricultural interests in her rural district while denouncing federal efforts to enforce civil rights in the South. Over the span of her career, Blitch earned a reputation as a quick tongued legislator who enjoyed the give and take of debate."



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Iris Blitch on "What's My Line?





Majority Leader Carl Albert of Oklahoma remarked, "I have never known anyone more persistent in her devotion to duty. I have seen her sit here on the floor attending to every item of duty when she was ill and in pain. She is a real soldier."



Iris Blitch shocked her colleagues in 1964, when she changed her party alliance and joined the Republican party.  Of the party's 1964 Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, Blitch remarked, "In my political lifetime only one leader has come forward to give the American people a choice between a more centralized state and the complete dignity of the individual."



Originally a supporter of segregation as were nearly all members of her party in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s, Iris Blitch became more tolerant of the rights of African Americans in supporting Georgia governor Jimmy Carter, who became the first Georgia governor to do so in the 1970s.





In 1988, Iris Blitch, who once remarked that she always had politics in her blood,  moved to be closer to her daughter, in San Diego, California, where  Iris  died on August 19, 1993.  She is buried in Pinelawn Cemetery, Homerville, Georgia.



As much as things have changed in national and state politics in the sixty years after Iris Blitch took her seat in the United States House of Representatives, the more things have stayed pretty much the same.  Georgia, with her fourteen seats in the House and two seats in the Senate,  is without a female representative.   Since Congresswoman Blitch left office fifty years ago, only Cynthia McGivney and Denise Majid have been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.  The total number of women who have served Georgia in the House of Representatives and the Senate is six, second in the Deep South only to Florida (no longer considered the Deep South by many) which boasts of 11 women.  So the question remains, when will another Iris Blitch step forward and change the face of politics in Georgia?


Thursday, May 15, 2014

THE BLOOMER GIRLS



Baseball’s Barnstorming Belles

A century ago,  baseball teams with women players were somewhat of a novelty.  The all-women teams, with the exception of one or two essential male players, made a nearly modest living traveling throughout the country, playing in big cities and little towns against all  male teams, usually a squad formed from local boys and young men.  Such was the case with the Indianapolis Star Bloomer Girls, who traveled through Georgia in the spring of 1914, stopped in Dublin for a contest against our local team.

“Bloomer Girls” teams were formed in different parts of the country from New England to the Mid West.  The teams were not all women. Many hired a male player, “a topper”  to pitch or catch.  Among three of the most famous toppers, some of whom wore wavy wigs, were Hall of Fame infielder Rogers Hornsby, who would return to Dublin with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1933,  Smoky Joe Wood a star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox in the years before World War I and another Hall of Fame pitcher, Grover Cleveland Alexander. 

Named for Adelaide  Bloomer, a woman’s rights activist, the Bloomer Girls began in the 1890s and lasted for more than four decades when women’s professional baseball teams disbanded in the mid 1930s.  The Girls, who originally wore loose-fitting bloomer pants  before switching to more traditional baseball pants, helped to introduce night baseball games in the early 1900s.  Used to playing at night, the blinding glare of the arc lights often gave the Bloomer Girls a decided advantage to their daylight playing competitors. 

After spending the winter training in Cuba, the Bloomer Girls, managed by Frank Schmalz - the brother of former Cincinnati Reds owner George Schmalz,  began a grueling schedule in February 1914, playing first in New Orleans and then playing on most days across the Deep South.  

Eastman was the first stop on the Georgia schedule for the Bloomer Girls, who billed themselves as the “Lady Champions of the World,”  on April 20, 1914.   One thousand or more baseball fans and curious spectators witnessed the Eastman Boys jump out to an early 5-0 lead at the end of three innings.  The Bloomer Girls committed eight errors in the game, but managed to pull within two runs with a three-run six inning. Eastman’s catcher Wright had a big day with three hits, while Eastman starting pitcher, Henry Skelton, held the Girls in check for most of the game. 

The Star Bloomer Girls traveled from Eastman to Dublin by train for a game  on the afternoon of April 21, 1914.  Under fair, warming skies the teams took the field, most likely at the 12th District Fairgrounds at the corner of Telfair and Troup Streets.  There may have been as many as 1500 fans on hand to see the game.

Although no specific accounts of the game have survived, the Dublin boys scored single runs in the first and third innings before plating four to take a commanding 6- 0lead in the bottom of the 5th inning.  With outstanding fielding, the Dublin boys held the Girls to a single run in the top of the 8th, taking an easy 7-1 victory with the pitching of Whetor.  Margaret “Peg” Cunningham,  the left-handed, nineteen-year-old,  star pitcher for the Girls,  started for the Bloomers until she was relieved by Loyd, who pitched well in relief.  The Dublin boys boasted that they had the second greatest victory by a Georgia team against the Bloomers, only a single run behind the boys from LaGrange. 


Margaret "Peg" Cunningham and Minnie Fay Phelan, Feb. 1914

Among the girls playing in Dublin that day were: Selma Wanbaum, an eight-year veteran at first base,  “Happy” Murphy, the team comedian and second baseman with six year’s experience, and third baseman Elizabeth “Lizzie” Fargo.  Playing left field was “Carrie Nation,” aka Mae Arbaugh, who reportedly played in 6,486 professional baseball games (and at least 4600 as reported by Baseball Magazine in 1931.)  If true, Arbaugh would have surpassed Pete Rose for the most games played by a professional baseball player. 

Marie  Dierl took center field and Watsworth, right field. Minnie Fay Phelan, sister of Chicago Cub infielder, Art Phelan, and the Girls’ right handed pitcher, once pitched a 3-2, 14-inning complete game against the men of Syracuse.  Jack Reilly, a semi-pro player, was the sole male member of the team and usually played the key stone position at shortstop.  

Margaret Cunningham was regarded as the best female pitcher of her day.  Seems that Margaret learned how to pitch under the mentorship of Ed Walsh, a Hall of Fame pitcher, who played with the Chicago White Sox for most of his career and who still holds the all time record lowest (1.82) career ERA.  One of Cunningham’s greatest pitching victories came in 1913 when she defeated Louisville, Kentucky’s male team 2-1 in an 11-inning complete game victory.  
The next stop on the swing through Central Georgia came on the 22nd of April in a game between the Star Bloomers and Hawkinsville. 

On the 24th, the Girls traveled to Macon to play an All Star team made up of members of the Central City League.  Margaret “Peg O’ My Heart” Cunningham started the game in front of more than a thousand men and their wives.

At the end of three innings, Cunningham, obviously exhausted from pitching too many innings on too many days, cried out, “Oh, my!  I am tired.  Take me out!”   With their star pitcher on the bench, things weren’t looking up for the Bloomers, who were playing their fourth straight day of baseball, all on the road and far, far from their homes.  

With three men playing against the powerful Macon team, the Bloomer Girls’ Mr. John came into pitch, holding the Macon nine scoreless for the rest of the game.  The Girls fought back scoring  one in the 6th inning and two runs in each of the next two stanzas to squeak by the Macon men, 5-4.

The next day, the girls traveled to Atlanta to face the Atlanta Federals, a semi-pro team, whom they upset in front of a stunned crowd.  

The Bloomer Girls continued their swing through Georgia in May playing teams from Columbus, Talbotton, LaGrange and the Bibb Mills team from Macon.  Bloomer boosters claim that the Bibb Mills team had to import players to keep the girls from sweeping the two-game series from Macon men. 

By the time the Star Girls made it to Montgomery, Alabama, they had won five games  in a row. Managers of the men’s capital city’s team scoured the countryside for men with semi-pro experience to prevent further embarrassment to the ego of the men of the “Yellowhammer State.”   The Montgomery team assembled a team which they deemed to have “the best amateur infield in the state.”    The bought and paid for  team won, but the Bloomer Girls kept right on playing throughout the summer and throughout the nation, playing as many as two hundred games a year.

Those who saw the “Star Bloomer Girls” went away believing that baseball’s  barnstorming belles in dark uniforms with a big star on the front were not just novelties, but an aggregation of good baseball players who could hold their own with the best men that any city or town could send out to beat them.





Wednesday, April 2, 2014

JANE NEW DORSEY


The Sentimental Gentleman's Lady

This is the novelistic account of the life of Jane New Dorsey of Dublin, Georgia, who grew up to realize her dream of being a successful singer and dancer.  Never in her wildest, youthful dreams could she ever conceive of being married to one of the most famous men in America and  one of the greatest big band leaders in the history of music.  Her eight and one-half year marriage to the band leader, Tommy Dorsey, was both passionate and tempestuous to say the least. 

Jane Carl New was born to Dublin attorney Stephen Parker New and his wife, Ruth Hightower New, on October 23, 1923.   Jane attended elementary school a few blocks from her home.   The New family, including brothers Stephen Jr. and William Hightower New, left their home at 515 Tucker Street in Dublin and moved to Washington, D.C., when the elder New was appointed an attorney for the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1936.

Jane, who lived at 410 Cedar Street in northwestern  Washington,  studied dancing at the Phil Hayden Studios in Washington, D.C. and  drama at the Abilene School of Theater in New York after her graduation from Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C.  During years of World War II, New became a speciality dancer and understudy to the lead female singer  in a revival of the Ziegfeld Follies, starring Milton Berle, Illona Massey and Arthur Treacher.

Jane, beautiful dancer and a fine singer with a natural singing voice,  became a regular dancer in the famous Copacabana Club in New York City.  

New's first, and albeit short,  marriage to Bob Mizzy didn't work out well.  Mizzy had been married to another dancer of a sorts, the burlesque stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee.  

Miss New, somewhat short at five-feet, four-inches tall,  found new fame as a chorus line dancer in the Colonial Inn in Miami. 

One night, while dining at the Casino Gardens, Tommy Dorsey's club near Los Angeles,  Jane noticed  Dorsey coming over to her table where she was dining with friends.  Jane noticed that the tent card on her table contained a misspelling of Dorsey's last name.

Jane began to poke fun at and flirt with Dorsey, who offered her a job managing the room where he was performing.  In his book "Livin' In a Great Big Way," Peter J. Levinson wrote, "The bandleader-proprietor was intrigued by New's sassy personality. Dorsey and New left togther in his car.  The great Dorsey was not used to a woman talking back to him, much less a woman he had just met."

Jane and Tommy, whose 137 hits on the Billboard Charts exceeded those of both Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, began dating four to six weeks later.  

During the winter of 1948, Dorsey proposed his hand in marriage to Jane by handing her a five-carat diamond ring.  Jane accepted and immediately set out for Miami to resign her position at the Colonial Inn, but not before stopping in at her parents' home to tell them the wonderful news.

Fred Dickensen, in a 1948 article for The Oregonian, wrote, "She was lovely, and she was lonely.  Furthermore, she was hungry.  Jane New slammed the door of the empty icebox in the Florida home of her absent hosts and then went to the telephone.  When the musician, Tommy Dorsey, was a from a few miles away in Miami, Jane said, 'All right, Tommy, you win.  If you feed me, I'll marry you.'"

Jane and Tommy were married in the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on March 27, 1948. Her parents and Dorsey's mother witnessed the unpretentious civil ceremony. The couple honeymooned on his yacht, "The Sentimentalist."   Although it was his third marriage, Dorsey, known as the Sentimental Gentlemen because of his big hits, I'm Getting Sentimental Over You and Sentimental Gentleman From Georgia, told Jane and their families, "This is it. This is the real thing."

Jane did manage to land one movie role, although minor, in the jam session of the 1954 movie, A Star is Born, starring Judy Garland and James Mason. 

Jane and Tommy had two children, Catherine and Stephen. 

The on again, off again, marriage began to fall completely apart in the summer of 1956.  After  bitter preliminary court proceedings, the court ordered that both of the Dorseys could live in their palatial home in Greenwhich, Connecticut, but in separate and  locked bedrooms.

On November 26, 1956, Tommy Dorsey, at the age of 51, died all alone, behind his locked bed room door.  The coroner ruled that the Sentimental Gentleman died from choking on his evening dinner.  

Dorsey's death came only two days before the Dorseys were scheduled appear in court toward a divorce. 

With the dissonance gone in her life, Jane Dorsey turned her life around.  Not as wealthy as her lifestyle would dictate, Jane successfully took her fight to secure the rights to her husband's musical arrangements.  As the owner and manager of the Tommy  Dorsey Orchestra, she oversaw the operation of band which performed hundreds of times each year, including a visit to Dublin a decade or so ago. 
"There was one main love in her life, and that was my father.  And, she never completely got over is death. " said son Stephen Dorsey after Jane's death on August 28,  2003. 

Jane was buried beside her beloved, embattled husband in  Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.  At the base of her slab are engraved the words, "Tommy Called Her His E Flat."


SELINA BURCH STANFORD

Warrior For the Dignity of Women

Long before the Women's Rights movement began in the 1960s and escalated in the 1970s, one Dublin woman was out there in the streets, inside board rooms and in the work place fighting for the rights of her fellow women workers, the right to be treated equal, the right to fair pay and the right of decent working conditions.   This is the story of a local young girl who took on the male establishment and accomplished her goals, winning a few important battles on the way.

Selina Burch Stanford was born in Laurens County, Georgia on September 24, 1927.  She was a daughter of Roger Burch and Jane Smith and grew up in the Burch District of Laurens County.  Selina attended Laurens County and Dublin schools.   At the age of seventeen, Selina went to work for Southern Bell Telephone Company as an operator.  Along with many of her fellow workers, Selina joined the Southern Federation of Telephone Workers.

Miss Burch's first true experience with labor relations came in 1947 when she and her fellow union members endured a strike which lasted nearly seven weeks.   That same year, telephone workers across the nation began the process of consolidating and forming a more powerful and unified single union organization under the banner of the Congress of Industrial Organizations.   Following the labor action, Selina was transferred to Charleston, South Carolina.  After five years she was elected Secretary of Local 3407 of the Communication Workers of America.   A year later in 1953, Selina was elected as the recording secretary of the Charleston CIO.

At the age of 27 in 1954, Selina Burch became the first woman to be elected president of her local union and any union in South Carolina.  She said, "I guess the rebel in me really began to come out somewhere between 1952 and 1954 when I discovered that I was doing all the work and a male was getting all the credit."    In 1955 she was chosen to serve on the staff of the Communication Workers of America as a representative and organizer. The satisfactory resolution of a violent strike that year by 50,000 employees led to her election to a leadership position on the district level when she became director of the North Louisiana division of the union.  

It was in the Creole State where Selina's interest in politics began to surface.  She spent tireless hours to build the state Democratic party.   She joined the campaign for Congressman Hale Boggs who served as majority leader of the United States House of Representatives and was a leader in establishing the Interstate Highway System and was also a member of the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

In 1964, Selina was reassigned again.  This time, she came home, or close to it.  Miss Burch, still yet unmarried, enjoyed Christmas visits to her old home in Dublin.  Her brother J.B. Burch was a popular service station owner in downtown Dublin.   She was especially close to a close-knit group of aunts known to some as "The Burch Sisters."  These ladies, Ilah, Celestia and Emily, all school teachers, were also unmarried and lived together in their large two-story home on South Calhoun Street.  

Seen as a tough and demanding woman on the outside, away from her formidable duties as a labor union secretary and an advocate for the rights of women to work outside the home, Selina was described as a soft-spoken women who loved to bake.  She was described as a natty dresser and a woman who exuded intelligence and dignity  as she spoke.  Her  stepdaughter Margaret Pavey said of her cooking, "Her lemon pound cakes were legendary, and so was her generosity in giving them away."

The 1960s were a decade when women for the first time began to find their way into  the top echelons of governmental, religious and private organizations throughout the country.  Selina Burch was no exception.  With great honor, Selina held the position as Secretary of the 450,000 member Communication Workers of America union.  In 1969, she was  invited to Singapore, where she taught Asian telephone workers on different facets of the telephone industry.  

Burch saw her role in the union and in life as a protector of the dignity of women. She told a reporter from the Malay Mall, "In the past, a woman's only intention was to marry and settle down.  But now she is competing with man in every field - from engineering to electronics, and as she competes with man in his preserved fields, she must form unions or actively participate in the trade unions that will protect her rights and dignity as a human being."   Selina disavowed any special privileges on account of her being a woman.  "I will make sure I am not discriminated against because of my sex. Merit should be the only criterion - not sex," she said.

During the 1970s she allied herself with Atlanta mayors Maynard Jackson and Andrew Jackson, organizing phone banks of callers in their successful mayoral campaigns. In 1974, Selina was appointed director of Georgia-Florida District.   In 1976, she worked tirelessly for a fellow Georgian, Jimmy Carter, in his campaign for president.  It was during that same year that Selina accepted an appointment by  Governor George Busbee as the first female member of the Georgia Board of Offender Rehabilitation.  As a member of the board, Miss Burch began to see the disparity of vocational rehabilitation between male and female inmates.    With the aid of a friend, she instituted a program of instructing women on the skills of being a telephone operator.  Always a faithful member of the Democratic Party, Miss Burch served as a delegate to two National Democratic Party Conventions.

In 1978, Selina Burch was again transferred, this time to Washington, D.C., where she served as an administrative assistant to Glen Watts, President of the Communication Workers of America.  In 1980, she once again returned to Atlanta, where she served as an assistant to the vice-president of that organization.

In 1981, at the age of 53 , Selina finally began to settle down.  She married Morgan Callaway Stanford, a labor lawyer.  Ten years later in 1991, she finally settled down and retired from the Union after 44 years of service.  Selina Burch Stanford died on October 19, 2002.

Joseph Yablosnki, a Washington labor lawyer, eulogized Selina Burch by saying, "She was a pioneer in the women's labor movement.  She showed that women in the CWA were not only entitled to a place at the bargaining table, but could serve the union's members at the highest level of the union itself.  She could be as hard as nails when she had to be, but she was the sweetest friend and best client I ever had."    Former regional union director described Selina Stanford as "a tireless worker, dedicated to the CWA membership and a person with a brilliant mind."    

Saturday, March 22, 2014

ANNIE ANDERSON



Juvenile Jurist




On August 19, 1920, the Congress of the United States ratified the 19th Amendment which guaranteed the right of women in the country to vote.  Sara Orr, a young Dublin woman, was honored to serve as secretary for three United States Senators from Georgia, Thomas E. Watson, Rebecca Lattimer Felton and Walter F. George.  Senator Felton, appointed by Georgia governor Thomas W. Hardwick who would later became a resident of Dublin, was the nation’s first female senator.    Though Laurens County women made rapid strides in the years following the adoption of the amendment, more than a half century elapsed before women began to make inroads into political offices across the state.  This is the story of Mrs. Annie Anderson who, with an appointment by Laurens County Superior Court Judge J.L. Kent, became the first female judge of any court in the State of Georgia.



In the years following World War I, the Georgia legislature provided that the eight most populous counties in Georgia establish juvenile courts to handle the rapidly increasing number of criminal cases involving juvenile offenders.  After two consecutive grand jury presentments,  the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, church organizations and the Women’s Community Association appointed Mrs. Frank Lawson, the state’s first female democratic district vice-chairman, to head a committee to seek a candidate to fill the office.    With the guidance of the sheriff and county officials Mrs. Lawson and her committee sought just the right candidate to deal with “the  good many” children who were confined to Laurens County jail in 1920.



A number of candidates were considered.  Annie Anderson was not one of them.  The committee wanted some one who could hear cases against minors, who were often placed in jail with adult convicts, a situation which was undeniably not the place these children should be.    Officials were concerned after the November 1921 conviction of 14-year-old George Walker for murdering his playmate 17-year-old George Avery.   Walker was the youngest Laurens Countian ever tried and convicted of murder.



The committee made their recommendation to Judge J.L.  Kent and on the last day of 1921, Judge Kent signed an order appointing Mrs. Anderson as Juvenile Court Judge for the county of Laurens.  Much to her surprise, Judge Anderson was not aware of her appointment until contacted by Judge Kent.  Few people had given any thoughts to the creation of the court. Even fewer people speculated on who the newest judge might be.



Annie Ogburn Anderson was born in 1877 in Wilkinson County, Georgia.   She was a daughter of Ellis and Missouri Ogburn.  The Ogburns moved to Dublin in 1898.  Shortly after they arrived, Annie caught the eye of the handsome young Oscar L. Anderson, the popular railroad agent of the Wrightsville and Tennille Railroad.  The couple had five children, Oscar, who joined the Navy after high school, and Mattie, Milton, Frances and Emma, who were students at the time their mother was appointed to the bench.  



Annie Anderson was described by those who knew her as “a woman of striking personality and personal charm, with high educational qualifications and strong character.  Mrs. Anderson was president of the local Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and chairman of the Prison Committee of the Missionary Society of the First Baptist Church in Dublin.



As a woman bound to rid the community of the  evil influence of spiritous liquors and intoxicating beer upon the youth of the town, Mrs. Anderson accumulated a vast knowledge of the depth of the problem which was increasingly injuring American youth. As a part of her duties as chairman of the prison committee,   Annie made weekly visits to prison camps scattered throughout the county.    Mrs. Anderson and the other ladies talked to the prisoners and tried to brighten the lives of those condemned to the chain gang.



Mrs. Anderson attempted to take a personal interest in the lives of the prisoners she visited, especially any young women she may have found.    She was always ready and willing to provide guidance and comfort  to wayward young girls with her motherly advice and frank talks.  Deeply committed to the rehabilitation of troubled children, Judge Anderson held strong opinions against traditional forms of punishment.



Shortly after her appointment, the Judge told an Atlanta Constitution reporter “more harm than good can come from prison confinement and labors in a reformatory as a method of punishment of the young boy and girl.”  “Extreme measures should be resorted to only after probation, change of environment and living conditions have failed to accomplish their purposes,” she added.



Mrs. Anderson applied the same principles of kindness, positiveness and reasonableness with her own children in dealing with delinquent children.  She believed that with these ideals and a lot of understanding, long periods of confinement were unnecessary.    The judge believed that most youthful indiscretions were just that, improprieties which resulted from modern customs and usages and not from an intentional act of a child.



Although she personally disliked the youthful customs of the day, dances, dyed and bobbed hair, Judge Anderson refused to pre judge those juveniles brought before her.  “She vowed to treat them “as kindly and with as such lenience and patience as it is possible under the circumstances.” “I am going to give them all a chance,” she promised.



After fondly seeing to the needs of her quintet of children and while her husband was frequently away from home tending to the rigorous schedule of his railroad duties, Judge Anderson made it her life’s goal of “aiding worthy boys and girls and influencing them toward the paths of righteousness and good citizenship.”



Annie Anderson was a shining star in a galaxy of the grand women of the South.  The judicial search committee could not have made a better choice in nominating Judge Anderson.  What better judge to select than a person who committed their lives to loving and caring for all children as if they were her own.   In this month as we celebrate the history of American women, let us remember Georgia’s first judge who tempered justice with mercy, kindness and a firm belief that a loving hand soothed the troubled soul better than the ruthless whip.




Friday, May 24, 2013

LUCY MAY STANTON


Miniature Artist Extra Ordinaire

Lucy Stanton  found her niche as a miniature artist.  In fact, she became famous both in the United States and around the world.  To prove that assertion,  Lucy Stanton was awarded the highly coveted Bronze Medal of the Society of American Miniature painters, being the first or second woman in America to receive such a distinction.  For one brief term,  this teenage artist taught art at what is now called Middle Georgia State College.  

An artist who worked with oils, pastels and watercolors, Miss Stanton is most recognized for her miniature watercolor portraits on ivory during the Arts and Crafts period at the turn of the 20th Century.   Critics laud her mature style,  innovative use of broad washes and evocative portraits depicting African Americans without sentimentality or prejudice.

Lucy May Stanton was born to William L. and Frances MeGee Stanton, on May 22, 1875.  As a child, Lucy grew up living across the street from the legendary Georgia journalist and writer Joel Chandler Harris, the author of the Uncle Remus tales.  

It is said at the age of four, Lucy began to mold creatures out of modeling clay and  took her first art lessons in New Orleans when she was a mere seven-years-old. 

Lucy became totally captivated with  the arts when she attended Southern Female College in LaGrange, which later became known as Cox College after its removal to College Park.  As an 18-year-old, Lucy accepted a position as an art teacher at the New Ebenezer College in Cochran, which is currently known as Middle Georgia State College.  After serving a one year term during the 1893-1894 school year, Lucy returned to the Atlanta area.

Lucy traveled to Paris, France to receive a formal and very prestigious education in painting. She would remain in the capital of European art for two years until 1898.  Seven years later, Lucy returned to France to further improve her artistic talents.

Stanton's first paying job came in 1896 when she was commissioned to paint miniature portraits of Spanish born opera singer Adelina Patti.  Over her thirty five-year career, Lucy May Stanton would become one of Georgia's premier portrait artists, painting portraits of her former neighbor, Joel Chandler Harris, (LEFT) and the iconic Georgia politician, Howell Cobb, who served as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the latter of which still hangs in the national capital.

After a single year spent in New York, Lucy Stanton returned to Georgia in 1902 to make her home in Athens, where she would live for most of  the remainder of her life.  By her late twenties, Lucy became a popular artist across the country.  Her works were exhibited in galleries in the largest cities in the world, including London, Paris, New York, Boston and Philadelphia.   

Stanton moved to Boston, Massachusetts in 1916, where she painted and taught art for nearly a decade.  

Lucy May Stanton's interests extended beyond the visual arts.  Stanton was highly involved in the social, cultural and political affairs of Athens and the nation. In 1914, she headed the Equal Suffrage League of Athens. 

In 1928, Stanton, along with Jeannette Rankin, helped to co-found the Georgia Peace Society, an organization dedicated to preventing any more wars.  Rankin, the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives, voted against the country's entrance into World War I and lead the fight to adopt the 19th Amendment to allow women the right to vote. 

''It was so interesting to me ... She was one of the first people to paint (African Americans) in a serious fashion, without propaganda or sentiment.'' Georgia Museum of Art Curator Betty Alice Fowler told the Athens Banner Herald. 

"She did a lot of stuff that I certainly don't think my grandmother or great-grandmother were doing at the time. She was well educated, clever, smart and talented. She made the most of it,'' Fowler added.  
At the height of her career, Stanton's works were featured in a solo exhibition in Atlanta's High Museum of Art.   

A worldwide acclaimed artist, Lucy May Stanton's seemingly endless list of awards  includes; The Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (Blue Ribbon, Paris, 1906), Pennsylvania Society of Miniature Painters (Bronze Medal, 1917), Atlanta Art Association (first prize, 1917), Concord Art Association (Medal of Honor, 1923), and National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors (honorable mention, 1925).

More than eighty years after her death in Athens on March 19, 1931, her works are among the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Emory University, and the Georgia Museum of Art.