Organize and reform was Mary Ellen Peters’ mantra long before unions adopted it.
Nellie Peters was born in Atlanta in 1851. After her husband died, she became an active reformer. With seven children of her own, she was a fierce advocate of free kindergartens and hospitals, compulsory education, diversified farming, and the enforcement of child labor laws.
Peters was on the board that organized the first free hospital in Atlanta, which became Grady Hospital. She served three terms as president of the Georgia Federation of Women’s Clubs. As manager of her family’s farm, she promoted agricultural experimentation. She ran food drives for wounded soldiers. In 1918, she convinced the University of Georgia to accept female students. She worked to get women admitted to the Georgia bar. The Atlanta Journal called her “one of the leading women of the South” whose name was a “synonym for charity. For love of humanity, for constructive citizenship.”
Nellie Peters’ legacy still lives, long after her own life ended on August 4, 1919, Today in Georgia History.