The first female mayor in Georgia, Alice Harrell Strickland also served as the Duluth Civic Club president, designed the family’s traditional Victoria home, opened that home as a children’s clinic and led the community in forestry conservation.
Born two years before the Civil War began, Alice Harrell was reared to be a traditional plantation lady. The granddaughter of pioneer farmers, Alice married lawyer Henry Strickland, Jr. in 1881 at age 22.
The Stricklands moved into his home in Duluth, a cotton trading town that had a bad reputation for drunken brawls and knifings. Alice joined the Duluth Methodist Church and the Civic Club and settled in as a new bride. She would bear seven children, all of whom went to college and showed signs of their mother’s pioneering spirit and courage.
In 1915, at age 55, Henry died, leaving Alice alone with two children still at home and World War I looming. Having no formal profession or college education, she could have simply withdrawn into a widow’s life, but Alice wasn’t the sort to simply stand aside.
Seeing the need for a health clinic and hospital in Duluth, she offered the entire second floor of her home for use as a prenatal clinic and children’s surgical facility. Then she took her concern for her community beyond medical needs. An ardent conservationist, she proved to be a woman of fierce determination and courage. With a shotgun in her hands, she blocked the way of power company workers, keeping them from placing lines across her land. Later, she donated a portion of her land to the community and helped organize the first conservation forest in Georgia.
Alice Strickland’s biggest challenge, however, came in 1921 when at age 62 she dared to run for Mayor of Duluth. Woman had only gained the right to vote a year earlier! Alice was determined to clean up her town, which had become even more raucous and rowdy in the years since she came there as a young bride. She campaigned in an openly hostile political climate. She won the election and served well as Mayor. She was “considerate to petty offenders, but severe with those who willingly and flagrantly disregarded the rights of others.” She actively pursued and prosecuted bootleggers, imposing maximum fines.
Alice Harrell Strickland’s legacy goes beyond politics, community health and forest conservation. She is a role model for women of all ages, demonstrating that a woman of retirement age can seek out challenges that even younger women might fear. She was “thinking globally, acting locally” before that phrase was popular. Most of all, she demonstrates that courage never goes out of style, and for her brave determination we honor Alice Harrell Strickland as a Georgia Woman of Achievement.
Duluth Historical Society
3578 W. Lawrenceville St.
Duluth, GA 30096