Three Georgia women to be honored posthumously Wednesday at Wesleyan


Sarah Harper "Sallie" Heard
Sarah Harper "Sallie" Heard lcorley@macon

Three women, including an architect from Macon, will be honored posthumously Wednesday at Wesleyan College for their achievements.

The 25th annual Georgia Women of Achievement's induction ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. in Wesleyan's Pierce Chapel.

The ceremony takes place in March in celebration of Women's History Month. This year, the group will recognize Ellamae Ellis League, of Macon, Sarah Harper "Sallie" Heard, of Middleton, and Katie Hall Underwood, of Sapelo Island, for making "incredible contributions that have lived on long after their lives have ended," said Betty Hollan, executive director of the Georgia Women of Achievement, a nonprofit organization.

League's legacy can be seen all over Macon in the Grand Opera House, Mulberry Street United Methodist Church, in schools and famed houses, according to The Telegraph's archives. The accomplished architect started in the business in 1922 at a time when female architects were a rarity. She spent 53 years designing hospitals, educational facilities, public housing and commercial buildings. A collection of her drawings is preserved at the Washington Memorial Library in downtown.

"I am always an architect. Not a woman architect, but an architect," League told The Telegraph in October 1962. "I encourage women going into the profession not to concentrate on being separate as a woman but to concentrate on being a good architect."

League, who was born in Macon in 1899, died in 1991.

Heard, born in 1853, "founded one of the first and largest free traveling library systems, and (it) was a precursor to many of the libraries that we have really all along the eastern seaboard," Hollan said. Heard proposed her idea of a train that transports books to every stop on its route to the vice president of Seaboard Air Line. Hundreds of permanent libraries were established as a result of Heard's traveling library, which continued to operate until her death in 1919, according to the nonprofit's website.

Underwood was born in 1884 on the same island on which she brought so many others into the world as a midwife.

"Legend or lore or reality, I'm not completely sure, says she never lost a child," Hollan said.

"She traveled by foot from one end of the island to the other and always cared for the babies and the mothers."

The daughter of freed slaves, Underwood delivered generations of Gullah-Geechee people, descendants of slaves who worked the coastal plantations from North Carolina to northern Florida, into the world between the 1920s until 1968. She died in 1977.

The three inductees will be among 83 others previously honored by Georgia Women of Achievement. This year's keynote speaker will be Statesboro High School senior Maya Van Wagenen, a 17-year-old author who's currently writing her next book for Penguin Books. DreamWorks bought the film rights for her book "Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Greek."

To register for the event, please visit www.georgiawomen.org or contact the GWA office at 404-328-8555.

To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4334 and follow her on Twitter @Lauraecor.