Neweta Club highlights role of local women in history
By W. WINSTON SKINNER
History is right here.
Members of the Neweta Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Inc. showed their awareness of the local nature of history when they presented a program Wednesday morning. A total of 11 club members presented one-minute profiles of notable women at Golden Corral.
Of the 11 women profiled, 10 are or were community leaders from the Coweta County area. "We have great history here in our local clubs," said Cathy Moses, who was coordinator for the program.
Women profiled by Neweta members were:
• Dorothy W. Jordan by Rosalyn Newell. A Newnan native, Jordan moved to LaGrange but married Edward Jordan and returned to Newnan.
"She was an energetic and busy person. She was an elementary school teacher, a night school teacher for veterans, a music teacher for the community's children and a choir director for two Methodist churches," Newell said.
Jordan "had all of this going on at the same time," Newell marveled.
Newell, who is president of the Christian Savings Club, noted Jordan was a member of that group and "held many offices and remained an active member until ill health prevented her participation."
Jordan also was a census taker and led Girl Scouts and Brownies.
• Shirlie Keith and other leaders of the Joiles Femmes Civic and Social Club, by Martha Guy. Keith was one of two honorees present for the meeting.
Guy said Joiles Femmes, founded in 1977, held its first meeting at Keith's home. Guy also talked about Mary Ann Reese – at 92 the oldest member member of the group – and Verneda Dowdell, a local educator and Joiles Femmes' oldest active member.
Joiles Femmes helps needy families and supports foundations seeking cures for cancer and diabetes. The group's main focus is "to promote excellence in education," Guy said.
• Gertie Perdue. Brenda Martin talked about Perdue's role in the Neweta Club. Perdue was business manager of the Coweta Business Women's Club and urged that organization to affiliate with the NANBPWC. She felt the national group had "similar goals to serve the community," Martin said.
Perdue felt joining the national group and following its organizational pattern would "put our talents and business knowledge to optimal use," Martin said.
Neweta was chartered in 1987. Perdue eventually received the Sojourner Truth Award, the highest award from the NANBPWC.
Perdue was a Coweta County School System educator who "believed in going beyond high school to prepare for the job market," Martin said. She also worked in business with her husband, George, and used those skills as Neweta "proposed and planned fundraisers," Martin said.
Perdue was a Girl Scout leader and was a member at Newnan Chapel United Methodist Church, where she served as finance chairperson.
• Juanita Watts Byrd, profiled by Johnnie Jones. Byrd and Jones were both teachers. "Mrs. Byrd came to Newnan like most of us – seeking employment," Jones said.
She taught mathematics at Central High School and was Newnan High's first African-American counselor. Byrd worked in education for 32 years.
Through the Continental Societys Inc. Byrd became "a very dear friend of mine," Jones said. "We traveled a lot, going to various meetings." Byrd held numerous local offices in the Continentals and was a regional director.
Byrd "was instrumental in working with our children, taking them on field trips and letting them know what college was about," Jones said.
• Octavia Jenkins, profiled by Octavia Mahone. Mahone talked about her mother, who was a leader in civic, religious and educational life in Coweta and the surrounding area.
A Newnan native, Jenkins attended Coweta County schools and McClelland Academy, a private, Presbyterian school in Newnan. She also attended Clark College.
Jenkins brought up her sister, Mary Willie, after their parents died. Octavia Smith married Roscoe Conklin Jenkins in 1917 – six years after he founded the funeral home that still bears his name.
"Together they owned an operated the business with honesty, integrity and professionalism," Mahone said.
Octavia Jenkins died at 94 in 1992. In 1978 she was named Mortician of the Year by the Fifth District Georgia Funeral Service Practitioners Association.
• Gurture Atwater. Margaret Thompson honored Atwater for her leaderhsip in Newnan Chapter 483, Order of the Eastern Star. Atwater was one of the chapter's founders.
Atwater was "a dynamic Sunday school teacher" and was active in Friendship Baptist Church, Thompson said. Atwater was "a gardener of life – full of love, patience and kindness for her fellow man," she reflected.
• Alice Malcolm, profiled by Mary Elder. Malcolm was both an honoree and a presenter. Elder spotlighted Malcolm's leadership in New Royal Chapter 89, Order of the Eastern Star in Grantville.
Elder described Malcolm, a Grantville native and lifelong Cowetan, as "the person who has been the most influential and inspirational" to the chapter.
Malcolm joined New Royal Chapter in 1956. During her tenure as Worthy Matron, Malcolm "made sure the chapter was involved in many charitable and community affairs," Elder said. In 2006, Malcolm received her 50-year gold pin.
Malcolm has also held leadership positions in LaGrange District 15, OES and is active in other civic groups. She is a member of John Wesley United Methodist Church.
• Annie Laura Clowers. Rosa Wilkerson focused on Clowers' membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. A native of Forsyth, Clowers was valedictorian of her class at Howard Warner High School in Newnan.
"She was a very observant and ambitious person," Wilkerson said. Clowers joined AKA at Savannah State College and was a charter member of Theta Xi Omega Chaper in LaGrange where she "was active and became a Golden Soror," Wilkerson related.
Clowers taught in Woodland and then at Central High in Newnan. "During the integration era, she was transferred to Newnan High School where she served until her retirement in 1992," Wilkerson said.
Clowers "was one you could ask for advice about getting your English language together when writing or talking," Wilkerson said.
• Mae B. Proffitt. Carolyn Henderson recalled her mother's role in the founding of the Orchettes Civic Club in 1954. At that time there was "a group of young ladies employed by the Coweta County School System as teachers (who) sought to find a happy medium between work and relaxation," Henderson recalled.
They began gathering at Proffitt's home, and she suggested they "might want to organize into a group to enjoy wholesome activities," Henderson said. She said Proffitt was "the catalyst" behind the Orchettes' formation.
Henderson described her mother as "a former teacher and a lady who held strong moral and spiritual values." Proffitt was "a visionary who always thought outside of the box to bring about effective change in all areas of life," she said.
• Beverly Hill-Jackson, profiled by Alice Malcolm. Hill-Jackson was recognized as a member of The Links. "She has held several offices, including treasurer," Malcolm said.
Hill-Jackson has represented the Links as national conferences. She "always promotes the Links' aims and objectives" and "continues to work to make the organization one of prominence," Malcolm said.
• Dorothy Height. Cathy Moses presented the only tribute to someone from outside the local area. Height "was best known as the 40-year president" of the National Council of Negro Women, Moses said.
Moses described Height as "the godmother of the women's movement." Height was one of 10 young people selected by Eleanor Roosevelt to plan a World Youth Conference in 1938. Height worked for the YWCA to "better conditions for black domestic workers," Moses said.
"One of the few women to participate at the highest levels of the Civil Rights movement," Height was "on the platform when Dr. King delivered his 'I have a dream' speech" in 1963, Moses noted.
Height joined Delta Sigma Theta in 1947. She served as vice president and then president of the national organization. Pres. Bill Clinton presented Height with the Medal of Freedom in 1994.
About 25 people attended the CSC program. CSC members had decorated a table in St. Patrick's Day style – complete with a bouquet in a green "pot of gold" for the event.
The Friends of the Peachtree City Library and the Southern Crescent Storytellers will be celebrating Women's History Month on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the lower level of the library. The family storytelling program will honor women throughout history.
This year's theme is "Women Inspiring Innovation through Imagination," and celebrates women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The approximately 90-minute program is free.
Georgia Women of Achievement is holding its 2013 induction ceremony today at Wesleyan College in Macon. This year's inductees are writer Lollie Belle Moore Wylie, historic preservation leader Mary Gregory Jewett and cookbook author Henrietta Stanley Dull.
Georgia Women of Achievement was created in 1988. The only Cowetan among honorees is Susan Cobb Milton Atkinson, a governor's wife from Newnan who played a key role in the founding of a women's college in Georgia and later became a businesswoman and postmaster. Others with Coweta ties include novelist Margaret Mitchell, who did research in Coweta and had local relatives; Celestine Sibley, who covered the John Wallace murder trial in Newnan; and Leila Ross Wilburn, one of Georgia's first female architects. One of Wilburn's designs still stands in Senoia.