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Carolyn Curry depicts life of Southern suffragist
Georgia Author of the Year to speak at Brenau University
Georgia Author of the Year Dr. Carolyn Curry will speak about her book “Suffer and Grow Strong: The Life of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas,” on Tuesday, Feb. 23, at Brenau University.

An Evening with Georgia Author Carolyn Curry

When: 6 p.m. reception and 7 p.m. reading

Where: Reception at Northeast Georgia History Center, 322 Academy St. NE, Gainesville; Reading at Hosch Theater, 429 Academy St., Gainesville

Cost: Free

More info: or 770-534-6247

Before the invention of the typewriter and computer, women detailed their lives on pen and paper in journals and letters.

“Suffer and Grow Strong” is the story of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, a spirited woman born just outside of Augusta in 1834 to one of the state’s wealthiest planter families. Her extensive journals, which she maintained for 41 years, are among the most detailed accounts of the lives of educated Southern women to survive the American Civil War.

Now, Dr. Carolyn Newton Curry brings her story to life through a similar means. The Georgia Author of the Year has written “Suffer and Grow Strong: The Life of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1834-1907.”

“Carolyn Curry says that her lifelong passion has been the well-being of women, past and present,” Brenau Women’s College Dean Dr. Debra Dobkins said. “She brings that passion to bear in her vivid rendering of the life of an amazing 19th century Georgia woman through decades of diaries.”

Curry will share her thoughts about her book Tuesday, Feb. 23, at Brenau University. “An Evening with Georgia Author of the Year Carolyn Curry” begins at 6 p.m. with a reception in the Northeast Georgia History Center.

A dramatic reading will follow at 7 p.m. at Hosch Theatre of the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts, followed by a book signing. Georgia Sports Hall of Fame football player and coach Bill Curry will provide introductory remarks for his author-wife at the theater presentation.

At the Brenau theater program, Curry will narrate and discuss selections from Thomas’ diaries performed by Brenau drama students dressed in 19th century costumes similar to what Thomas would have worn.

In many ways, Thomas is a real-life Scarlett O’Hara. Much like the “Gone with the Wind” protagonist, she grew up living the privileged life of an antebellum aristocrat, only to fall into abject poverty in the aftermath of the Civil War. The Wesleyan College graduate spent the rest of her life educating the children of others, eventually transforming from a staunch Southern nationalist to a pioneering feminist, whose efforts to end women’s suffrage in the South drew praise from Susan B. Anthony.

Her life story is a testament to perseverance, ingenuity, sisterhood and faith — a message very important for Women’s College students, said Dean of Brenau’s School of Fine Arts and Humanities Dr. Andrea Birch.

Curry, who shares the same distinction as Thomas in that they are both alumnae of women-only institutions, first became enthralled with the Victorian-era women’s rights leader as a graduate student. While researching her dissertation at Duke University, she read Thomas’ diaries and thus began her three decade-long fascination with the Southern suffragette.

“Gertrude exhibited strength and remarkable spiritual and emotional growth in the face of unimaginable adversity,” Curry said. “Her transformation from Southern Lady to New Woman of the New South has had a tremendous impact on my life.”

Curry has collected several awards for her book, including recognition as the 2015 Georgia Author of the Year in the biography category.

“Suffer and Grow Strong” was also selected as one of 2015’s Ten Books All Georgians Should Read by Georgia Center for the Book and received the 2014 Award for Excellence by the Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council of the University of Georgia. Authors Pat Conroy, Cassandra King and Terry Kay have praised Curry’s latest work, calling it a “remarkable biography” and “truly inspirational.”

Curry received the Smith-Breckenridge YWCA Distinguished Woman of Achievement Award in Kentucky in 1993, the Georgia State University Distinguished Alumni Community Service Award in 2011 and the Agnes Scott College Distinguished Alumna Award in 2014.

The Northeast Georgia History Center is at 322 Academy St. NE and the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts is at 429 Academy St. Both events are free.

For more information about “An Evening with Georgia Author of the Year Carolyn Curry,” contact Dr. Dobkins at or call 770-534-6247.


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