In 1933 it was still a man’s world. Most women worked in the home. Some women taught school, while others worked in clerical, domestic and other less than glamorous jobs. But it was in the deep dark year of the Great Depression that a few of the women then and formerly of Dublin took off their aprons, put their brooms in the closet (just for a little while anyway) and set out to find their rightful place in our society. During this month of March when we celebrate Women’s National History Month and on this International Women’s day, here are a few stories of the scores of Dublin women who excelled beyond their usual triumphs of managing our homes, families and every other thing left in their charge.
Charlotte Hightower Harwell was very good at her job. The only problem was that every other court reporter in the state of Georgia in 1932 was a man and she was just a 20-year-old woman. In derogation of the long-standing practice of male court reporters, Dublin Judicial Circuit Judge J.W. Kent appointed Mrs. Harrell as his court reporter, making her the first woman court reporter in Georgia. She later worked in LaGrange and in Gainesville for the Northeastern Judicial Circuit, which included the counties of Hall, White, Lumpkin and Dawson. Mrs. Harwell distrusted stenograph machines and recorded most of her trials by shorthand. It was said that she was such a good typist her hands were at one time insured by Lloyd's of London. Former Chief Superior Court Judge Richard Kenyon of Gainesville said, "For years, she was one of the brightest, most competent court reporters that this area has known." "All the lawyers had great respect for her," said Gainesville lawyer Julius Hulsey. "Nobody ever questioned her transcripts," he added. Mrs. Harwell retired in 1975 after a 42-year career as a court reporter. Charlotte Hightower Harrell died on May 22, 1995 and is buried in the Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainesville, Georgia.
Elizabeth Garrett Page was born in Hancock County, Georgia in 1903. Her father, A.W. Garrett, was one of the leading bankers and businessmen of “Dublin’s Golden Age.” In November 1933, this 30-year-old mother of four was appointed by the Dublin City Council to the Dublin City Board of Education, making her the first woman to serve in that capacity. Mrs. Page’s appointment came at a time when women had been voting on a regular basis for only a decade. Educated at Wesleyan College, Mrs. Page was the first president of the Parnassus Club and president of the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Mrs. Page was also active in the First Methodist Church, where she was the first president of the Leader’s Class. Mrs. Page served as the Society editor for the Dublin Courier Herald and operated a private kindergarten from 1949-1966. Mrs. Page died on March 3, 1986 and is buried in the mausoleum in Northview Cemetery in Dublin.
Aretha Miller Smith was born in Laurens County on July 22, 1914. After graduating from high school in 1930, Aretha went to work in the law office of W.A. Dampier. In those days it was not mandatory for candidates for the bar to attend law school or pass a written test. An applicant only needed to be presented for admission by practicing attorneys and pass an oral test administered by the judge of the Superior Court After three years of reading and studying the laws of Georgia, Miss Miller appeared before Judge Kent for her examination on her knowledge of the law. She passed and in December 1933 at the age of 19, Miss Aretha Miller became the first female attorney in Dublin, the first in the Dublin Circuit, one of the few female attorneys in the state at that time and most likely the youngest female attorney in the history of Georgia.
In addressing the court upon her admission to the bar, Miss Miller expressed her joy and humbly pledged her untiring efforts toward the cause of human justice, realizing the great responsibility and the uplifting influence that may be exerted in a community by a good lawyer. She worked with W.A. Dampier until 1943, when Mrs. Smith joined in the war effort when she took a position in the Judge Advocate’s office at Robins Field in Wellston (Warner Robins), Georgia. Aretha Miller Smith practiced law in Dublin for more than three decades before her death on December 23, 1969. She is buried in Northview Cemetery in Dublin.
Jesse Baldwin, daughter of Sidney A. Baldwin and Mary Searcy Baldwin, was born on October 28, 1888. Following the death of L.Q. Stubbs in 1933, Miss Baldwin was appointed as the first female Deputy Clerk and United States Commissioner of the Dublin Division of the Southern District of Georgia. Miss Baldwin died on April 26, 1977 and is buried in Northview Cemetery in Dublin.
In 1933, Sarah Orr Williams was beginning her 12th year as a secretary to a United States Senator from Georgia. She began her career in Washington, D.C. as secretary to the legendary senator Thomas E. Watson. Following Sen. Watson’s death in 1922, Gov. Thomas Hardwick, who would later move into a home a block south of Miss Orr’s home on Bellevue Avenue and South Calhoun St., appointed Watson’s close friend Mrs. Rebecca L. Felton to fill Watson’s unexpired term. Senator Felton retained Sarah in her office making her the first secretary of the first female United States Senator in the history of the country. A new election was held that fall and another legendary senator, Walter F. George, was elected to succeed Mrs. Felton. Sarah Orr remained as Sen. George’s secretary until 1934, when Sen. George replaced her with his nephew. Sarah Orr, daughter of former mayor and a leading Republican in Dublin, married Gladstone Williams, a writer for the Atlanta Constitution and other newspapers in Washington and Miami. While working at the Atlanta Constitution, Gladstone became acquainted with Margaret Mitchell. In writing her epic novel “Gone With the Wind,” Mitchell modeled her character of Rhett Butler after Williams, who also bore a slight resemblance to the actor Clarke Gable who played Rhett Butler in the movie version of the novel.
Known as a colorful character and treasured for her sharp wit, keen mind and undying loyalty to friends, Sarah Orr remained a volunteer for the American Red Cross, March of Dimes, American Cancer Society and numerous other charities. During her years in Dublin, Sarah Orr was instantly recognized while wearing her trade mark hats and long cigarette holders. She was an avid supporter of the Laurens County Historical Society and the Laurens County Library. Among her lasting contributions to the heritage of our community were the articles she wrote on the waning historical places and sites in our area following the post World War II boom. She died at the age of eighty-four on March 18, 1981 and is buried in Northview Cemetery.
One of Dublin’s most well known and respected teachers was Bertha Sheppard Hart. Bertha Hart, a daughter of M.M. Sheppard and Julian Caroline Page, was born in Johnson County on September 8, 1878 near Wrightsville. Mrs. Hart was the wife of long time county agent John F. Hart. The Harts moved to Laurens County in 1922. In 1929, Mrs. Hart published “Introduction to Georgia Writers.” In this definitive bibliography of the works of Georgia authors, Mrs. Hart sought to encourage her students and students across the state to strive to become great writers. Her most famous work was as the editor of “The History of Laurens County, Georgia, 1807-1941.” Mrs. Hart was a popular speaker to civic, patriotic and cultural organizations in addition to her years of devotion to teaching Sunday School at First Baptist Church. Bertha Hart served a four-year term as President of the Woman’s Study Club as well as terms as Regent of the John Laurens Chapter, NSDAR and as an officer of the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy. She was a substitute librarian at the Carnegie Library and was named “First Lady of Dublin” by the Beta Sigma Phi sorority. She died on April 18, 1949. Her ashes were buried beside her husband in Union Point Cemetery in Union Point, Georgia.
The year 1933 was an especially gratifying year for Nella Braddy. Born in Americus and reared in Macon and Dublin, Miss Braddy was one of the country’s
most successful women writers and editors. Miss Braddy was a daughter of Robert E. Braddy, Sr., a prolific writer of letters and articles in his own right. Her brother, Robert E. Braddy, Jr., was an admiral in the United States Navy and was awarded the Navy Cross, the country’s second highest award for heroism.
Miss Braddy was educated at Wesleyan College, Converse College and Columbia University in New York. She began teaching in Georgia public schools, but soon decided she would pursue a career in writing. Nella went to work for Doubleday Publishing Company. It was at Doubleday where she met her husband Keith Henney, a writer of radio text books and electronics magazine articles. As an editor at Doubleday, Miss Braddy compiled and edited articles of some of the world’s most famous authors. Among her landmark works are the “Standard Book of British and American Verse,” “O. Henryana,” “The University Library” series and the “New Concise Pictorial Encyclopedia.” Though she was considered one of the country’s foremost female encyclopediasts, Braddy admitted she had a poor memory for facts.
Grace Warren Landrum, one of two daughters of the Rev. William Warren Landrum and Ida Dunster, often visited in Dublin at the home of her sister Mrs. Margaret Landrum Watkins. In 1912, Miss Landrum founded the Dublin Woman’s Study Club to promote the study of literature, art and music. For the rest of her life, Miss Landrum maintained close ties to the Woman’s Study Club as an honorary member. She was born July 18, 1876 in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1898, she was the first Southern woman to graduate from Radcliffe College. Miss Watkins began her teaching career at the Washington Seminary in Atlanta. She taught at the Kentucky Home School for Girls in Louisville, Kentucky, before obtaining her A.M.
Degree from the University of Chicago in 1915. She was a Professor of English at Tennessee College in Murfreesboro and Head of the English Department at Westhampton College. Grace Landrum was awarded a Ph. D. in English from Radcliffe in 1921. From 1927 to 1947, Dr. Landrum was an English professor and Dean of Women at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1919, Miss Landrum published “Charlotte,” a biographical novel of one of her gifted students. She was a member of the honor society Phi Beta Kappa and a prolific writer of journal articles on l iterature. Of her most enduring legacies at William and Mary was the establishment of the “Yule Log” ceremony at Christmas. The Yule Log is carried through the crowed of students who each take a sprig of holly and touch the log and tossed the burning sprig into the Yule Log Fire, symbolically tossing away their worries for the rest of the year. Dr. Landrum’s original idea included the wearing of 18th Century costumes and the passing of a boar’s head throughout the crowd. More enduring legacies at William and Mary are Landrum Hall and Landrum Drive named in Dr. Landrum’s honor and memory. After retiring from William and Mary, Dr. Landrum taught briefly at the University of Redlands in California. Grace Warren Landrum died in Columbus, Ohio on April 21, 1951. Always considered as an honorary citizen of Dublin, Miss Landrum was laid to rest beside her sister Margaret Landrum in Northview Cemetery.
Mrs. John S. Adams was one of the leading members of a large number of women’s patriotic organizations on the local, state and national levels. Born Lucia Augusta Stanley on January 2, 1874, Mrs. Adams was a daughter of Capt. Rollin A. Stanley, C.S.A. and Rebecca Lowther. She was a member of what was undoubtedly Laurens County’s most prominent family. Her brother Harris McCall Stanley was the editor of the Dublin Courier-Dispatch, school board president, military officer, and founder of the Dublin Chautaugua and the Carnegie Library. In 1911, he was elected Georgia’s first Commissioner of Commerce and Labor. Another brother, Vivian L. Stanley, worked in the newspaper business in Dublin. A former postmaster of Dublin, Stanley was elected to the Georgia Prison Commission and played a pivotal role in the extradition of Robert Burns, whose story became immortalized in the book and the movie “I Was a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang.” Her eldest brother was Ira Lowther Stanley. Ira L. Stanley began his newspaper career with the Dublin Gazette. He was one of the founders of the Dallas Evening Herald and other newspapers in Texas. Frank R. Stanley, the fourth of her brothers to work in the newspaper business, was printer of the Gainesville News.
Mrs. Adams was called to join and lead nearly every patriotic women’s organization in Dublin. She was the first president of the Thomas McCall Chapter of the Daughters of 1812. Mrs. Adams was a Regent of the John Laurens Chapter NSDAR, state president of the Colonial Daughters of the 17th Century, state regent of the Daughters of 1812, President General of the Colonial Daughters of the 17th Century, and national Curator General of the Daughters of 1812. She and her husband Judge John S. Adams lived in “Prences,” their home on Bellevue Road, which is now being restored by Lana and Allen Thomas. She and her husband moved to Washington, D.C. in the mid 1930s when he took a position with the Treasury Department. Judge and Mrs. Adams returned to Dublin when he took a position as the Referee in Bankruptcy for the Dublin Division of the Federal Court.
There were other outstanding Dublin women in 1933 who are too numerous to mention here. They will have their own place in other columns. It was a year when actress Eugenia Rawls was beginning to step off the college stage toward the bright lights of Broadway. It was a year when Madge Hilburn Methvin was one of the only female editors of a Georgia newspaper. In a time when food was scarce to many people, Henrietta (Mrs. S.R.) Dull, the food editor of the Atlanta Constitution, was the country’s foremost expert on Southern cooking. There were even more unsung women that never were afforded the credit of their enduring efforts. The year was 1933, the year of the women of Dublin.