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Martha Berry 1866 ~ 1942


Martha Berry

Miss Martha Berry is one of the most prominent women today in the philanthropic work in the South, and one who deserves conspicuous mention for her personal efforts and what she has accomplished in her splendid work for the benefit of the children of the mountaineers of Georgia, who are so isolated and so shut out from every opportunity of education.

The beginning of the Martha Berry Industrial School, to which only the poor are eligible, was the result of Miss Berry's efforts to interest a few of the mountain children who strayed into a simple cottage which she had built on the mountain side, near her father's home. The Bible stories and tales from Grimm which she told them brought them frequently together.

A year later four mountain day schools were established. Through them Miss Berry realized that the only salvation of these mountain children lay in training them in a home school, where strict discipline and industrial training would go hand in hand with book learning. So she built her own school, a ten-room building.

Her first two scholars were boys whom she had found in a cabin far out in the hills, boarding themselves and paying two dollars a month tuition to an old broken down schoolmaster who was teaching them the Greek alphabet, though they couldn't read or write. She took these boys under her charge, promising them a literary and industrial education at fifty dollars a year, including their board, with the privilege of working their way through school. This was in January, 1902. The school opened with one building and five pupils, two teachers and about thirty acres of forest land. Their industrial equipment consisted of an old horse, one small plough, two hoes, a rake, two axes and a mallet. Today Miss Berry's buildings and equipment represent an investment of two hundred thousand dollars. More than a thousand boys have come to this school and gone back to the mountains to help reclaim their people from the ignorance and superstition into which they had fallen.

A girls' school has also been established in connection with this, and there are in it fifty girls. Miss Berry has raised thirty-five thousand dollars every year to keep the work going. Hundreds of boys and girls of the mountain districts of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Virginia are pleading to enter this school. Nothing but the lack of a generous support prevents Miss Berry from extending her work in this much-needed field.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


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