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Berry College founder commemorated

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ROME, Ga. -

Georgia's own Martha Berry was a woman  long before her time. The founder of Berry College was pioneer in education

"When she began her educational mission in the late 1890s, it was about helping the around her," said Tim Brown, curator of Oak Hill and the Martha Berry Museum " You know, illiteracy was rampant and she made it her cause to help the poor people of Georgia."

Berry began by building 5 schools for poor, rural children-- The Berry Schools. Many consider the feat  almost unbelievable  for a single woman at the turn of the 20th century.

"Can you imagine a woman going out on her own, contacting people and asking for donations for something they didn't know anything about," said Marti Berry Walstad, Berry's great niece "That's where the real personality came in because she was a very strong, persistent woman."

Case in point, after building the boys industrial school, President Teddy Roosevelt suggested Berry build a school for girls, but the board trustees said the community wasn't ready.

"Well, she never took no for answer. She put an ad in the paper and said the Berry school for girls was going to begin the following year.On Thanksgiving Day of 1909 the  school began," said Brown

Here's the kicker, you may have over looked in this story. This all began almost 20 years before women were given the right to vote.

"What she was able to achieve was more important for the fact that she was a woman," said Brown.

The Berry Schools would eventually become Berry College. Today the campus is the largest contiguous college campus in the world. Martha Berry's accomplishments lead the state legislature to designate U.S. Highway 27 Martha Berry Highway.

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