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Martha Berry

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Before Martha Berry found Berry College she was the daughter of Capt. Thomas Berry and Frances Margaret Rhea. She was born on October 7, 1865, in Cherokee County, Alabama. Martha grew up with her five sisters, two brothers and three orphaned cousins. This was a very busy household. All the kids where tutored at young ages and went to school when they were old enough. Martha loved school; it inspired her to do bigger and better things in life.

The founding of the Berry Schools was inspired by Martha’s desire to help the children of poor landowners and tenant farmers in Georgia who didn’t have access to quality education. Martha decided to devote her life to developing school systems that would give back to lower class people of the south. This would later become to what we now know as Berry College. Martha knew that if she would pursue her dreams anything was possible.

In the late 1890s, she constructed a small whitewashed school on eighty-three acres of land given to her by her father. Martha was an active teacher who taught Bible stories and Sunday school lessons to the children. She not only taught at her school but also at an abandoned church at Possum trot, which still stands on the Berry College campus. The Sunday school classes eventually turned into day school activities and soon opened a boarding facility for boys called Boys’ Industrial School. Boys took classes in reading, writing, and math, but they also took classes that taught them how to be better farmers and use new equipment.Martha’s teachings focused on the hands, head and hearts of her students. Martha taught that the ability to learn, work and the will to do both well. Martha’s motto was “Not to be ministered unto but to minister.” This still remains as the schools motto.

Martha Berry had many supporters during her lifetime, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie, Ellen Louise Wilson (wife of Woodrow Wilson). To meet community needs, and expansion, money became essential. Martha traveled extensively to raise cash. Among the largest donors were Andrew Carnegie and, later, Henry Ford. President Theodore Roosevelt held a dinner in the White House to raise money, to encourage her to build a girls school as well. On Thanksgiving Day in 1909 The Berry Schools opened with a coeducational program. Following her school for boys Martha founded the Martha Berry School for Girls. The girls took some of the same classes as the boys, such as reading and writing, but they also took classes in sewing, weaving, and folk games. Both schools offered high school level education and were open for those willing to study hard and



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