Rebecca Latimer Felton 1835 - 1930
Educated in music and art, Rebecca Latimer graduated from the Madison Female College in Decatur in 1852, where she met her future husband at her graduation exercise. Married that year in Decatur, Rebecca returned with Dr. Felton to his father's farm on the Tennessee Road outside of Cartersville. Felton's full-time exposure to politics began in 1874, when she aided in her husband's successful campaign to Congress as his advisor and political strategist. Finding her niche, Felton became an outspoken opponent of New South Democratic leadership, and a strong proponent of and a leader in the women's movement, and in other progressive reform movements such as education and temperance. Later she served as delegate and state chairman of the woman's auxiliary of Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive "Bull Moose" party.
Dr. Felton died in 1909, and Mrs. Felton moved from the farm into the town proper, to a home on the corner of Leake Street and South Avenue. Felton published her Memoirs of Georgia Politics in 1911, Country Life in Georgia in the Days of My Youth in 1919, and The Romantic Story of Georgia Women in 1930, shortly before her death. As a columnist for the Atlanta Journal for twenty-eight years, Felton contributed various articles under the titles "Mrs. Felton's Timely Talks" and "The Country Home," their format being a cross between a modern "Dear Abby" and "Hints from Heloise." In 1922 Felton received an honorary doctorate from the University of Georgia, and on November 22 of that year, was further honored with the unique distinction of being sworn in as the first woman Senator, taking her oath of office at the courthouse in Cartersville and attending two sessions of the Senate before relinquishing her seat to Senator Walter F. George following his special election. Feared, respected, and admired during her lifetime, Rebecca Felton remains a complex historical study for scholars almost a century after her death.
©2000 Chantal Parker
Originally published in
150 Years of Cartersville 1850-2000