Great Women of Georgia
In Georgia, we have numerous famous figures to be proud of, however, over the course of history, some of the women who defied the status quo and changed perceptions around the world have been forgotten. Check out our list of the great women of Georgia.
Lucy C. Laney
Lucy Laney was born to parents Louisa and David Laney in 1854, 11 years before the end of slavery. David Laney saved up to buy his and his wife’s freedom 20 years before Lucy’s birth. Her parents firmly believed in the importance of education and helping strangers, both elements were fundamental in shaping their daughter for the future.
Laney studied at Atlanta University and then moved to Augusta. She went on to found the first schools for Black children in the Augusta area, Haines Normal and Industrial Institute. She was determined, engaging, kind, and highly intellectual and, as shown by the thousands that attended her funeral in 1933, beloved by many in the community. In 1974, President Jimmy Carter chose Laney to be one of the first three portraits of African Americans hung in the Georgia state capitol to honor their achievements. She was also inducted into the Georgia Women of Achievement Hall of Fame.
Juliette Gordon Low
Juliette Gordon Low was born in Savannah in 1887. She was well-educated and well-traveled and on one trip to England, she met Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts. Inspired by this organization but seeing a lack of any such group for women, she founded the Girl Scouts back in the US. The group started with 18 members and the first expedition was held outside Savannah. The group grew to 148,000 members during Gordon Low’s time with the scouts and today has around 1.7 million girl members worldwide. Even more impressively, for the first five years of the project, Gordon Low funded everything from her own pocket!
Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey
Gertrude Pridgett claims to have been born in Colombus, Georgia, although official documents name her place of birth in Alabama. She moved back to Colombus towards the end of her life and was the owner of 3 theatres. She was a woman who started performing as part of a minstrel show is often called the “Mother of the Blues”. According to Rainey, one night in Missouri she came across a woman who taught her a song about a man leaving a woman. This song became part of her repertoire and when she was asked what kind of music she was singing she said “Blues” due to its melancholy nature.
Her unique gravelly tones inspired numerous world-renowned singers such as Louis Armstrong, who she recorded with. Her portrayal of the Black experience appealed to both the North and South of the country. She is often named as a woman ahead of her time because of her fluid approach to sexuality and gender. Her songs constantly challenged the images of feminity and the female experience, a theme that inspired people like Alice Walker.
The author of novels such as “The Member of the Wedding” and “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” was born in 1917 in Colombus, Georgia. The two novels cemented McCullers’s position amongst the great writers of 20th century America. All her work was set in the Deep South and the common themes of loneliness and being an outsider branded her work as the “Southern Gothic” style. The Rainey-McCullers School of Arts in Colombus is named after two of the mentioned great women of Georgia.
Alice Woodby McKane
Alice Woodby McKane moved to Augusta, Georgia to study at the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute. While there, she met the son of a Liberian king, Cornelius McKane who she went on to marry and work alongside in his practice in Savannah. In 1892 she was the only Black female physician in Georgia. With her husband, she set up the first school of nurse training for Black people in Savannah, they set up a hospital in Liberia, and they set up the Charity Hospital for Women and Children which was especially for African Americans.
If you want to know more about the women of Georgia, contact us today to arrange a custom tour on the subject. We are dedicated to preserving the memory of women who have changed the course of history in our state and educating visitors on their lives.