Mamie George S. Williams
politician. suffragette. community activist
2018 Honoree, Georgia Women of Achievement
July 8, 1951
City, Town, Region
1872: Born in Savannah to Reverend James and Sarah Miller.
1899: Married Forance Lambert, widowed by 1900.
1902: Married Savannah businessman George Williams.
1917 – 1919: Earned the covet pin for 2,400 hours of volunteer work with Toussaint L’Ouverture branch of the American Red Cross.
1920: Waged voters’ campaign to educate and register women to vote. Is said to have brought out 40,000 women to vote in Georgia in the 1920 presidential election.
1920 - 1924: Charter member of the Federation of Southeast Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. Elected State President of the National Association of Women’s Clubs. Elected vice- president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs.
1922: President of the Georgia State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. Awarded the Founder’s Gold Medal. Instrumental in opening a home for delinquent girls in the Thunderbolt community of Savannah.
1924: First woman from Georgia and the first African-American woman to serve on the National Republican Committee. First woman in U.S. political history to be accorded the floor in a National Republican Convention. Organized the first and only national political organization in the U. S.—the National Republican League of Colored Women.
1928 - 1932: Member of the Interracial Commission of Georgia. Matron of Chatham Protective Home for Negro Girls.
1935: Awarded the Waldorf Club silver loving cup for outstanding service.
1937: Trustee of Georgia Saving & Realty Corporation (now Carver Bank).
1940's: Led movement to secure the Colored Recreation Center and Swimming Pool in Savannah. Continues work with Chatham County Protective Home for Girls.
1951: Dies in Charity Hospital in Savannah on July 8.
Mamie Williams was born in Savannah, Georgia, in April 1872, to Reverend James and Sarah Miller. She was given the name Mary Frances, but was called Mamie. She was educated at Beach Institute in Savannah and at the Atlanta University. The former Mamie Miller married twice, and twice was widowed. She often was referred to as Mrs. George S. Williams, carrying the name of her second husband, a respected business leader in Savannah. To her closest friends and contemporaries, she was Mamie George.
Mrs. Williams began her life of civic service during World War I, supporting Liberty Loan Drives and other War efforts at home. She earned a coveted pin for her 2,400 hours of volunteer work with the Toussaint L’Ouverture branch of the American Red Cross. Following the War, Williams began her focus on politics. In 1920, when women won the vote, Williams rolled up her sleeves, and registered so many colored women in Georgia that the governor of the state stopped registration of all women until the legislature could pass ancillary laws. Additionally, Williams was credited with bringing out 40,000 Georgia women to vote in the 1920 presidential election, waging a voter’s campaign in 160 counties and flooding the state with literature, making speeches and picketing polling places.
In 1924, Mrs. Williams made national history. That year, she was appointed (and later elected) the first woman from Georgia and the first African-American woman in the nation to serve on the National Republican Committee. In 1924, Williams scored another first. She became the first woman in U.S. history accorded the floor of the National Republican Convention. There she spoke in defense of the Georgia delegation whose seats were being contested by the white faction of the party that sought to strip black Republicans of their power. Immediately after the 1924 Convention, she again made history, establishing the National Republican League of Colored Women Voters, the first and only national political organization among African-American women in the United States. Williams later expressed her devotion to politics, stating: “To many politics is a sordid game. But to me it means the getting of everything worthwhile out of it for the race. ”
Williams would hold the seat of political power until 1932, when the lily-white contingency successfully removed black Republicans from key, decision-making positions. At the close of her political career, the Atlanta Daily World newspaper thanked Williams for her impeccable service:
“As a modern Esther pleading for her people, she knew no compromise, accepted no quarter...Mrs. Williams will go down in history as the champion saint of her people, with her hands unstained and her conscious clear and with the consolation that at no time did temptation in its glaring disguise move her to deliver her people and her party for thirty pieces of silver.”
Williams’ work with women’s clubs is equally notable. She was a charter member of the Federation of Southeast Federation of Colored Women’s Club, established in 1924. That year, Williams was elected President of the Georgia Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs and was awarded the Founder’s Gold Medal. She was elected Vice-President of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, serving with such venerable women as Hallie Q. Brown, Mary Church Terrell, Ida B. Wells, and Mary McLeod Bethune. Williams was a member of the Interracial Commission of Georgia, President of the Chatham County Colored Citizen Council, and matron-in-charge of the Chatham County Protective Home for Colored Girls. She continued to work with Girl Scouts in Savannah, and was recognized with a troop named in her honor.
A businesswoman, Williams served as a Director of the Carver Bank and as Board Member of Central (City) State College in Macon. In 1935 Williams was awarded the Waldorf Club silver loving cup for outstanding service. In the 1940s she led a movement to establish the Colored Recreation and Swimming Pool in Savannah and was instrumental in securing a grant to establish a state home for colored girls in Macon. In recognition of her efforts on behalf of African-American women in Savannah, Williams was elected an honorary member of the Iota Phi Lambda Sorority.
Mamie Williams died in Savannah’s Charity Hospital in 1951. In eulogizing Williams, Sol Johnson, editor of the Savannah Tribune, wrote:
“In the passing of Mrs. (Mamie) George S. Williams, Savannah has lost another citizen...loyal to it to the core and a tireless champion of her people...Perhaps none of her activities gave her more satisfaction than her work with the Chatham Protective Home for Negro Girls and the Girl Scouts. Many children whom she mothered bear eloquent testimony of the devotion to a cause to which she gave the latter years of her life.”5
Mamie Williams was indeed a tireless fighter. She was a leader in state, regional, and national women’s clubs, fought for a Republican delegation representative of both black and white citizens of Georgia, and scored “firsts” for women in national politics. Although battle-tested, victorious, and at times standing as a “lone reed” speaking out on behalf of her people, Williams never flinched; she never gave in. Mamie George Williams was a beacon of light and hope for women across Georgia and the nation. She was truly an “Esther of her people.”