Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas was an intelligent, spirited woman born in 1834 to one of the wealthiest families in Georgia. At the age of fourteen she began and kept a diary for forty-one years. These diaries of her life before, during, and after the Civil War filled thirteen handwritten volumes with 450,000 words. In the early years she described her life of leisure and recorded the books she read. Her father recognized her love of learning and sent her to the first college for women in America, Wesleyan Female College in Macon, Georgia. After college graduation in 1851, she was a "gay young girl of fashion" who met and married her Princeton-educated husband in 1852. However, with the coming of the Civil War and its aftermath, her life changed forever. Thomas experienced loss of wealth, bankruptcy, the death of loved ones, serious illness, and devastating family strife. She gave birth to ten children and saw four of them die. But, through it all, she kept pouring thoughts into her diary. Thomas examined what was happening, asked questions, and strived to find ways to improve her family's dire economic straits. She started a school in her home and later ran a boardinghouse out of the old family mansion. In 1893, Thomas left Augusta and moved to Atlanta where she became active in many women's organizations, including the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Suffrage Movement. She began producing articles for newspapers, keeping them in scrapbooks that tell the story of her life after she quit keeping a diary. In 1899 she was elected president of the Georgia Women Suffrage Association. Because of her own losses, Thomas was sensitive to the well-being of other women. As she said, she had "suffered and grown strong." Her life is an amazing story of survival and transformation that speaks to women in our own time. -- from back cover.
Home -- Family, wealth, and privilege -- Adolescence and education -- Marriage -- The Civil War -- Adjustment to defeat -- Bankruptcy -- Teacher and writer -- Awareness and commitment -- Suffragist and new woman
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