Augusta, GA (WJBF)- Suffragists fought for nearly 100 years for equal rights. Not just for the right to vote, but also for things like maternal rights.
Two women in the CSRA made huge impacts on women’s suffrage-Martha Schofield and Eulalie Salley.
“She came from Pennsylvania as part of the Freedmen’s Bureau to teach school to recently emancipated African American Children,” said Lauren Virgo, Executive Director Aiken County Historical Museum.
Martha Schofield was a Quaker and came from a family of staunch Abolitionists and Women’s Rights Activists. She went to the lower country of South Carolina to teach. While there, Schofield contracted tuberculosis, which prompted her move to Aiken.
“Aiken was a wonderful health resort at the time, so it seemed natural for her to come here,” Virgo said.
After funding for the Freedmen’s Bureau was cut, she started Schoefield’s Normal and Industrial School, where they taught African American men and women to become craftsmen and teachers. The school was mostly self sustaining, but still needed some help financially.
“Between the fundraising efforts of Ms. Schofileld and her talks abroad, across the country, she went as far as California to speak to people about her school and fundraise for it,” explained Virgo.
She explained that Schofield’s goal was to educate and help with the women’s rights movement in the South.
“She became corresponding friends with Susan B Anthony. And actually, as part of Susan B. Anthony’s Southern tour, she came here to Aiken in February of 1895.”
Schofield died on the morning of her 77th birthday. Friends went to her house to celebrate her and found her dead in her bed. What was supposed to be a birthday party turned into a celebration of life party.
Her school is now known as Schofield Middle School.
Eulalie Salley was also from Aiken. She was inspired to fight for women’s rights after the controversial Ex ParteTillman case, where Lucy Dugas Tillman fought to get her children back after her husband deeded them to his parents.
Gayla Keese, Education Manager at the Augusta Museum of History said Salley was a strong willed woman who did what she thought was right.
“If she decided to do something, it was done. Whether that was suffrage and getting the vote, or whether that was becoming a boxer or whether that was talking to people and becoming a real estate agent,” explained Keesee.
Suffragists were known to do outlandish things to gain attention for the movement. Salley took that to heart. She learned to box for a fundraising boxing match as part of the Gold Dust Twins. She once rented a plane and flew over the city of Aiken throwing fliers for an upcoming suffrage meeting to people below.
Salley’s husband, Julian, was the mayor of Aiken and he didn’t approve of her suffrage work. He refused to pay for it, but Salley found ways around that.
“Eulalie Salley actually took money out of her husband’s wallet every morning that he wouldn’t miss,” Keesee laughed.
To fund her sufferage work, Salley became a real estate agent in Aiken. Her husband bet she couldn’t make more than $100 in her first month. She made $1,000.
“Even when her husband said she couldn’t do it, she said, oh don’t do that. And they made a bet and she won.”
Salley became one of Aiken’s most successful real Estate agents. She was in her 80’s when the 19th Amendment was finally ratified in South Carolina, 50 years after it was approved in the US Senate.
“And she went before the men, mainly men who were in the South Carolina Statehouse, and said ‘I’ve been waiting 50 years to tell you boys exactly what I think of you,'” said Virgo.
I think Eulalie Salley is my new personal hero.
Salley was close friends with Annie G. Wright. Wright lived in Augusta and was a major figure in women’s suffrage in Georgia. She worked closely with Salley, helping her with suffrage meetings in Aiken, trying to drum up support for the movement. Wright eventually became the first president of the Georgia League of Women Voters.
Another important figure in Augusta’s Suffrage Movement was Lucy C. Laney. Laney is most well known for her work in education, founding the Haines Institute for Normal and Industrial Education in Augusta.
Laney also was a founding member of the Augusta Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and worked extensively with the National Association of Colored Women.
When women were granted the right to vote in 1920, it didn’t extend to African American women. They weren’t allowed to vote until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
Laney fought for African American Civil and Women’s Rights until her death in 1933. She never saw that dream realized.
The Augusta Museum of History is hosting Monday at the Museum, a virtual educational program for kids 3-6 years old. This month, Eulalie Salley is being featured. On August 11, she will also be a featured person at the museum’s Night at the Museum event.
The Aiken County Historical Museum has an ongoing exhibit on Martha Schofield. CLICK HERE for more info.
USC Aiken will be hosting an Inter-Curricular Enrichment Requirement event on Eulalie Salley on March 23 at 2:30 pm. in the Gregg-Graniteville Library Learning Commons. The public is invited, but RSVP’s are required as space is limited.
Hey CSRA, that’s just part of your Hometown History.
PhotoJournalist: Reggie Mckie.