Be it the fight for equality in the workplace, access to affordable healthcare, or the #metoo movement, women today have coalesced to bring attention to injustices and call for change to make their communities better.
But the role of women in social activism and public service is not new, and it has been filled by extraordinary individuals seeking to make a lasting impact in their communities.
Clayton State University celebrates some of its sheroes–women who have left an indelible mark on the institution.
Lucy Huie – Standing in the face of adversity
Lucy Huie was a wife and mother of four children living in Jonesboro when she chose to take a stand against segregation nearly 60 years ago.
The 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that found that segregated schools were inherently unequal and ordered immediate desegregation was met with opposition from many Southern legislatures.
In the years that followed, Southern states, including Georgia, blocked state and local funding to those desegregated schools as a response to the ruling.
Huie recalled back in 2010 the time she found three crosses burned on her lawn because of her support for keeping desegregated schools open at a time when some Georgia lawmakers wanted to close them down.
"They were not burned ... all at the same time," Huie told Clayton News Daily. "We didn't know who was putting the crosses up, or when they would do it. We figured they would run up the hill, quickly plant them in the ground, set them on fire, and then run away."
Huie did not let the incident stop her, even though her husband feared for the safety of his wife and their children.
Instead, she used her voice to ensure all children regardless of race would receive a quality education.
Huie advocated for keeping the desegregated schools open, volunteering with a non-profit at the time called Help Our Public Education (H.O.P.E., Inc.), whose goal was to prevent public schools from closing under any circumstances.
The organization was founded by several women including Muriel Lokey, Maxine Friedman, Bettye Harris, Frances Pauley; and together they held rallies, gave speeches and passed out flyers about the danger in closing public schools.
It was many decades later in 2010, that she was rewarded for her efforts to support desegregation, as well as her role in collecting oral histories of Clayton County residents.
Huie was honored as one of 12 recipients of the Governor’s Awards in Humanities from the Georgia Humanities Council.
Huie had also served as a member of the Clayton State University Foundation board of trustees, and donated a piece of land off Tara Boulevard she and her husband owned a small airport on to the school.
For her service to Clayton State and the local community, the university’s aviation training center on the donated land was renamed in her honor in 2009.
It has since become home to the Clayton State University’s 10,000 foot film studio where students learn movie production skills to be a part of Georgia’s $9.5 billion film industry.
"Her sense of responsibility to her community still guides her life," said Clayton State Associate Professor of History Kathryn Kemp said at the time of the building renaming in 2009. "Lucy and [husband] Arthur Huie and the other HOPE supporters may not be equivalent to the great martyrs and famous heroes of the Civil Rights Movement, but the willingness of people like these to lead their communities a step forward was also essential to the progress of the greatest American social movement of the century."
Emilie Spivey – A dream realized
All around Spivey Hall are hints of its namesake Emilie Spivey.
The architecture, the acoustics, even the interior design–created by Emilie’s own personal designer Gerald Underwood–reflect Emilie’s dream of the Southern Crescent being home to a spectacular performance venue that could still be an intimate space to connect audiences to the performers.
Emilie, and her husband, Walter, spent many years developing Lake Jodeco and Lake Spivey into two beautiful private man-made lakes surrounded by stately homes and a park.
But what was close to Emilie’s heart was music. An organist herself and a chamber music aficionado, Emilie found pleasure in sharing her passion for classical music with others.
So, it was important that she have a concert hall built in the community to bring people together through music. Clayton State was the perfect setting for her vision.
Building Spivey Hall would be a great feat–Emilie and Walter donated $2.5 million of their own money to the project and established the Walter and Emilie Spivey Foundation in the 1980s to help fund construction.
Emilie thrived in her role as visionary leader of the project, even as she dealt with a cancer-diagnosis and her husband passing away not long after he approached then-president Harry S. Downs to develop Spivey Hall.
Emilie, nor her husband, got to see the fruits of their labor. But when Spivey Hall opened in 1991, the couple’s legacy was cemented within the walls of the concert venue.
Harry S. Downs had promised to complete all of Emilie’s wishes and he did so in 1992, when Spivey Hall installed renowned Albert Schweitzer Memorial Organ built by Italian pipe-organ manufacturer Fratelli Ruffatti.
The Albert Schweitzer Memorial Organ is a magnificent centerpiece on the stage at Spivey Hall. The instrument’s 4, 413 pipes stretch toward the ceiling, encased in faux marble and gold leaf, matching the height and expanse of the acoustically-sound performance venue.
“It was her dream one day to have a concert hall that was dominated by an organ,” said Alan Morrison, organist-in-residence and whose mother was a close friend of Emilie.
In those 25 years since Spivey Hall opened, it has become a world-class venue recognized for its impeccable acoustic sound, and for welcoming national and international musicians and performing artists to its stage.
One could say that much like the organ that sits in Spivey Hall, Emilie’s legacy is noble and will stand the test of time.