Organizing women: Women's clubs and education in Georgia, 1890–1920 McPherson, Mary E. Georgia State University ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2009. 3410729.
The rise of women’s volunteer organizations can be linked to the social changes that the United States was undergoing during the Progressive Era. The movement from an agrarian society to an industrial one, massive migration of Americans from rural areas to the cities, and increased immigration all contributed to social challenges in the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Recently historians have begun to explore how women’s contributions helped to combat these challenges and this study shows how women’s clubs in Georgia were able to exercise their philanthropic power through their involvement in education.
By 1860, the women’s club movement was well underway in the United States, with most of the activity in the Northeast, Midwest, and the West. The South, due to the devastation of the Civil War, did not see an emergence of women’s clubs until 1890. Southern middle class white women felt compelled to help those they perceived as less fortunate at a time when they themselves were trying to establish their own placement within the social structure of the Progressive Era South. Women, due to changing societal roles, were beginning to move beyond the home. They began to use the expertise they acquired through managing a household and applied this knowledge to social programs that would help those in need. Often times these social programs were focused on the education of young children and women.
Women’s clubs in Georgia provide a lens for exploring how women were able to influence educational developments during the Progressive Era. Archival data show that the Georgia Federation of Women’s Clubs, the Atlanta Woman’s Club, and the Athens Woman’s Club played in important role in educational advancements in Georgia during the Progressive Era. Archival and primary source materials were used to support an analysis of gender, social class, and geographic differences on women’s roles in educational changes. This study analyzes how women were able to affect education in Georgia at a time when men dominated educational decision-making.