Women Who Made a Difference in Powder Springs

Most histories are written about the men who made a difference in the settling of our country, our towns, our cities, etc. However, much is not written about how important the women played in helping shape our country and communities. They are often overlooked. The women were always there in the background working with the men.

The women of Powder Springs worked alongside of their husbands in businesses, on the farms, at other jobs in the home or community and in other areas of the community helping make a living for their families and a better place to live. They were school teachers, Sunday School Teachers, housewives, laundresses, domestic help, nursery workers/child care, midwives, and always very involved in their churches.

These are a few of those Powder Springs women, listed alphabetically, who made a difference. By all means, it is not a complete list. All the women who lived in Powder Springs made a difference no matter what their role was in shaping our town and community.

Josie Kiser Awtrey – (1849-1918) Thanks to her efforts, the Methodist and Missionary Baptist Churches were reimbursed for the destruction caused by the Union troops during their occupation of Powder Springs in 1864. In 1915, the churches received a $640 check from the federal government.

Rev. Christine Penn Brooks – (1926-2009) was the daughter of Luke Penn and Charity Young Penn. Rev. Brooks was an early pastor at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

Ethel Lee Clark – (1912-1993) Ethel and her sister Rena started a popular business producing pies and cakes from Ethels home. Rena taught her daughter Willie G. Watts how to make fried pies filled with fruit or sweet potatoes and fried to a crisp in vegetable oil. Rena continued this family business after her Aunt Ethel passed away in 1993. Ethel was known locally as ‘the Pie Lady’ because of her fried pies. She was also known for her trademark five-flavor pound cake and her coconut cake. Ethel also helped establish and build the Church of God on Long Street.

Sallie Hardage – (1888-1974) Sallie was an entrepreneur and the wife of prominent town merchant G. M. Hardage. She saw an opportunity to build better housing in the black neighborhood. Sallie purchased lots in the community, beginning in the 1930’s and began to build four-room, wooden houses to rent to black families, particularly along Anderson, Butner and Marchman Streets. She would walk through the neighborhood on Sunday mornings to collect the rent. By the 1960’s she began to encourage residents to buy the houses where they lived. Sallie also helped finance the mortgage, often installing indoor plumbing and bathrooms at that time.

Della Boswell Kuykendall – (1875-1963) was the first telephone exchange night operator when the exchange opened in downtown Powder Springs. She worked for the exchange for nine years and missed only one day of work.

Mamie Hill was Chief Operator.

Catherine Mellichamp – (1920-2016) was the Head Librarian when the Powder Springs Library opened in 1964 on Marietta Street in the building that is now owned by the First Baptist Church (“The Garage”) and used for youth and event activities.

Sarah Frances Miller – (1918-2002) was a Powder Springs Historian whose family were long time residences of the Powder Springs community. She was an educator for over 35 years in Cobb County, a charter member and President of the Seven Springs Historical Society, the Historian of the Mimosa Garden Club, one of the historians of the First Baptist Church of Powder Springs where she taught Sunday School for many years and a Charter member of and Co-Secretary and Treasurer of Powder Springs Senior Citizens Center. Miss Miller was the driving force behind the creation of the Seven Springs Museum where she served as President and curator for many years. She also co-authored the cookbook “Seven Springs Sampler” which is a history of Powder Springs with drawings of some of the older homes along with recipes plus information about herbs. On May 21, 1992, she was named the South Cobb Citizen of The Year by the Austell/South Cobb Rotary Club and the South Cobb Division of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce.

Roberta Murray – (1888-1972) was a well-known and respected citizen who spent her life serving others. Roberta was the daughter of Dr. Robert Murray, one of the first doctors in town. Long before there was a public library in Powders Springs, Roberta invited young people into her own private library and encouraged them to borrow her books. She often bought shoes and clothes for children so that they could attend school. She is remembered as the town’s first historian.

Estie Norris – (1915-2014) was a long time member of the Seven Springs Historical Society and the Powder Springs Senior Citizens Center. She was known as the “Quilt Lady” for all the quilts she made and helped make during her lifetime. She made and donated 20 handmade quilts to the Seven Springs Historical Society and Museum to be raffled off in December each year. She was a hard worker, well respected and loved by many people.

Charity Young Penn – (1896-1962) was the daughter of Sandy Young, a popular barber who practiced his trade downtown in the Lewis Building. Charity was a servant of Emma Camp when she was just nine years old. She was also the babysitter for Virginia Tapp, the daughter of W. R. Tapp, Sr. family. She married Luke Penn in 1913 and they had 13 children together. Their daughter Doris Turner lives on Atlanta Street on the site of Rev. Alec Penn’s house, a prominent religious leader in Cobb and Douglas County and father of Luke Penn.

Mrs. W.Y. Stovall (Sarah “Sally”)– (1835-1910) was one of the pioneer citizens of Powder Springs. She owned and operated the Stovall House (Hotel) in Powder Springs in the mid 1800’s and early 1900’s. The Hotel is currently known as the Magnolia House. When her son Charlie Camp and Emma Ragsdale married, she had a house built for them as a wedding present. It is the Camp-Boyd House at 4279 Marietta Street. She then built a house next door in which to live.

Estelle Leake Tapp – (1892-1979) worked for the Post Office and was the Postmaster when she retired in 1962. She worked at the downtown post office (first actual post office building) for 29 years. During the war years (World War II) she recalled working from 6:00 am to 9:00 pm. The old post office building has been used for several businesses and is currently (2023) the home of Marylin’s Beauty Salon.

Virginia Tapp – (1911-1992) was a history teacher in Cobb County for many years. She was the Historian of the First Baptist Church of Powder Springs and author of two volumes of the church’s history. She was also, one of the Historians of Powder Springs since her family were long time residences of Powder Springs.

Pocia White and Agnes Mae Waldon Austin – (1876-1953 & 1883-1960) both ladies had ‘gained notoriety’ as midwives who delivered babies for both white and black families. Anytime they wanted somebody delivered or something, they’d come get one of these ladies, according to family members.

Ruthie White – worked as a nurse for Dr. A. J. Griffith at Powder Springs Hospital for 28 years. She was not a registered nurse. Her daughter said, that everything Dr. Griffith asked of her, she could do it and would do it. She did x-rays and administered shots, anything a nurse could do and more. Ruthie was well respected and considered a great nurse and person.

There were three private schools in the early 1900’s. (1) Miss Ella Hunters school was located on the corner of Old Austell Road and Atlanta Street. (2) A girl’s school on the corner of North Avenue and Marietta Street. (3) Bernard Academy Boarding School owned and operated by the Rev. and Mrs. Jessie Bookhardt on the corner of Powder Springs and Siniard Street.

In 1918, World War I, the ladies of the community organized and worked in the Powder Springs Red Cross.

In the 1930’s Coats and Clark opened a mill to make thread (Coats & Clark Thread Mill) in Clarkdale, again offering women work outside the home.

World War II also brought opportunities for women at the Bell Aircraft (Bomber) Plant in Marietta. Many worked on the various assembly lines there during the war years. Some worked when Lockheed Aircraft opened in the same plant.

In Powder Springs, many women stayed local and went to work in school cafeterias in and around Powder Springs, local businesses and/or worked at the Lindley Hotel downtown. Others chose to stay at home and raise their families.

During the 1970’s more opportunities opened up for women allowing them to do things that had previously only been done by men. Women were able to open and operate their own businesses, advance in other areas and businesses and even enter politics.

In 2004 Powder Springs elected its first female Mayor, Patricia Vaughn. She served as Mayor of Powder Springs for 12 years, retiring in 2016. Prior to being elected Mayor, she served on the City Council from 1995 – 2003. Mayor Vaughn was instrumental in the City’s purchase of the Bodiford House from his estate in 2014 with the specific intent of moving the Seven Springs Museum, from its location in the Powder Springs Park, into the house. The Museum had been in the park since opening in 1984. After renovations of the Bodiford House, in 2015, the Museum was moved into its new home.

There were already women who served on the City Council and other city government offices of Powder Springs at that time. One example would be Betty Brady, served as City Clerk of Powder Springs for over 20 years. Her family (the Geiger’s) were also longtime residence. The Bradys were also longtime residence of Powder Springs.

Women opened and operated their own businesses: beauty shops, flower/florist shops, day care or child care facilities, restaurants, and book stores. Some became nurses. Some took other business opportunities and entered management jobs. Some would become branch managers of local banks and eventually help organize and operate other community banks.

As you can see from the above, Powder Springs did have its share of women who worked, raised families, enjoyed life here and did make it a better place to live for everyone. Without them Powder Springs would not be the community it is today.

A “Thank You” goes out to ALL the women who lived in Powder Springs, no matter how they contributed to shaping our town and community. The information for this article was compiled from various papers, documents, records that Sarah Frances Miller and her volunteers gathered over the years and has been preserved in the Research Room at the Museum.

Other information was taken from the “Images of America – Powder Springs” book and the “Powder Springs has Some Deep Roots In It” book also located in the Research Room at the Museum. Information from Mayor Vaughn on her service to Powder Springs as Mayor. “Thank You”.