Savannah's Black "First Ladies," Vol. 1: The Past, Present, and Future
by Pamela Howard-Oglesby and Brenda L. Roberts


Outskirts Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-432-73112-0.
Reviewed by Susan Wittig Albert
Posted on 10/23/2010

Nonfiction: Biography; Nonfiction: Cultural/Gender Focus

Savannah's Black First Ladies is a collection of profiles recognizing African-American women who pioneered in their vocational and professional fields and opened doors for the women who followed them. From the founder of the first order of African-American nuns in Georgia (Mother Mathilda Taylor-Beasley) to the State Command Chief of the Georgia Air National Guard (Betty L. G. Morgan), the book compiles brief biographies of two dozen highly accomplished black women.

All of the biographies reveal fascinating lives and give a glimpse of the struggles that each woman must have experienced. Alice Woodby McKane (1865-1948) was Savannah's first female physician. During her adventurous life, she opened a training school for black nurses, lived for a time in Liberia, and established a hospital for women and children.

Gertrude Green was the first black female social worker in Savannah. Her career began in the first years of the Depression, when black women had limited opportunties, and spanned more than 50 years.

Phyllis Mack was committed to becoming a dentist. A single mother, the only black female in her class of 60 at the Medical College of Georgia, she graduated in the top five percent. After many attempts to get a bank loan to start a private practice, she finally succeeded. Her advice to black women: "You don't have to settle for a job or a marriage you don't like. Do what you want in life."

Savannah's Black First Ladies is an inspirational book for young women everywhere. It shows women working hard, dreaming big, and doing great things, at a time when most of them were told that it couldn't be done. Recommended for school library collections and for readers who would like to know more about the achievements of black women.


Pamela Howard-Oglesby collaborated with her long-time friend, Brenda L. Roberts, to conduct intensive research to bring their book to press. Both women are native Savannahians working to improve their communities.

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