Mildred Lewis Rutherford – Encyclopedia of New Georgia

Mildred Lewis Rutherford is best known for her Confederate commemorative activities and for her books on the South.

She has written twenty-nine widely read books and pamphlets, including The South in history and literature (1907); What the South can claim; or, Where the South leads (1916); King Cotton: The True History of Cotton and Cotton Gin (1922); and The South must have its place in history (1923). For three years (1923-1926) she also published Miss Rutherford’s Clippings Album, a monthly periodical. In addition to writing, Rutherford has lectured extensively at Confederate Memorial Day celebrations and at United Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) engagements.

Rutherford was born in Athens on July 16, 1851, into a wealthy patrician family with deep roots. Before the Civil War (1861-1865), his father, Williams Rutherford, and maternal uncles, Howell Cobb and Thomas RR Cobb, were part of the state’s elite slavery. Rutherford attended the Lucy Cobb Institute, a girls’ graduation school in Athens, and after graduating in 1868, taught history and literature in Atlanta. In 1880, she returned to Athens and became the director of the Lucy Cobb Institute.

Mildred Lewis Rutherford
From Miss Rutherford’s Scrap Book, Vol. April 4, 1923

A tireless defender of the “Lost Cause” version of Southern history, Rutherford served as chairman of the Georgia Division of the SVP from 1899 to 1902, and general historian of the national organization from 1911 to 1916. Within Georgia’s division, Rutherford promoted educational work in the Appalachian Mountains of Georgia and advocated the use of SVP funds for the construction of facilities at the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School. She was also vice-president of the Stone Mountain monument project.

At a time when gender roles were changing, Rutherford reverted to “Old South” ideals about a woman’s own sphere. Although she challenged conventional female behavior by both becoming a speaker and remaining celibate throughout her life, she publicly defended the traditional social roles of women. She joined the Georgia Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage in 1914 and remained an opponent of women’s suffrage and the Nineteenth Amendment until its ratification in 1920.

Rutherford fell ill in 1927. Late on the night of December 25, while she was recovering, her house caught fire and many of her papers and belongings were burned. She died the following year, August 15, 1928. Mildred Seydell, her great-niece, was named in honor of Rutherford and became a distinguished journalist.

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