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Massie Heritage Celebrates Savannah Icons for Women’s History Month

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Local pioneering women like Flannery O’Connor, Frances Wong and Mary Musgrove and others are honored with portraits at a new exhibit at the Massie Heritage Center.

For Women’s History Month, 14 portraits will be on display at the center as part of the Women of Substance exhibit. The exhibit will highlight Savannah women who have made strides in education, historical perseverance, cooking, theater and philanthropy.

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The portraits were painted by Venezuelan artist Ana Maria Leonardi and donated to the center to be used for educational purposes, said Aylea Khuhro, heritage specialist at the Massie Center.

The Massie Heritage Center will host a month-long exhibit to honor local women as part of Women's History Month.

The purpose of the exhibit is to educate students, visitors, and locals about significant Savannah women who have contributed to the history of Savannah and the world.

“The one thing they have in common is that they’re all from Savannah and have made their mark here or beyond,” she said.

The paintings will be at the center until the end of March. The women in the portraits are:

  • Emma Morel Adler: A curator, who helped create Georgia Day Celebration. She was also a member of the Georgia Historical Society and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
  • Mother Mathilda Beasley: Seamstress, teacher, philanthropist and nun who ran a secret school for black slave and free children in the 1850s.
  • Juliette Gordon Low: Founded the Girl Scouts of America.
  • Mary Lane Morrison: a curator and author who served on the Savannah Historical Society
  • Sema Wilkes: A chef, restaurateur and owner, who ran a legendary boarding house on Jones Street from 1943 to 2002.
  • Fredericka Washington: A black actress and activist who became the head of the Negro Actors Guild.
  • Abigail Minis: settler, landowner and revolutionary heroine. She was also a powerful landowner in coastal Georgia and South Carolina.
  • Clermont Huger Lee: A renowned local landscaper and architect.
  • Nancy N. Lewis: A philanthropist who helped support SCAD, Savannah Christian Preparatory School, Jepson Center for the Arts, and Telfair Academy.
  • Grandma George S. Williams: The first woman from Georgia and the first black woman to be appointed to the Republican National Committee.
  • Mary Musgrove: Interpreter, businesswoman, and landowner of Creek Indian and English descent.
  • Frances Wong: educator and administrator in Savannah. She served as Principal at Myers Middle School, Windsor Forest and Jenkins Secondary Schools.
  • Madame Freeman: A beautician who owned and operated Madame Freeman’s beauty school in Savannah.
  • Flannery O’Conner: An author who wrote novels and short stories in the Southern Gothic style. She won three O’Henry Awards for short fiction before dying of lupus in 1964.

More information can be found by visiting Women of Substance on the Massie Center website.

Bianca Moorman is the education reporter. Reach her at [email protected] or 912-239-7706. Find her on Twitter @biancarmoorman.