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Posted on March 15, 2019 at 4:47 PM by Jamesan Stuckey
In celebration of Women’s History Month, here’s a sketch about one of Upson’s most influential people.
Thelma Thompson Slayden (1907-1977) was a former teacher at R.E. Lee Institute and author of five novels. Though not originally from Thomaston, the Alabama native made a home here for quite a few years. After eight years at R.E. Lee, Thelma quit so she could marry Lee’s ROTC instructor, Sergeant Walter Slayden, in 1934. Immediately following the success of her second novel, she was solicited by Upson’s School Superintendent which led her to become principal of two Upson Grammar Schools. (The Atlanta Journal Magazine, June 8, 1941)
Her first book, “Give Us This Night” was published November 15, 1939 around the same time other Upson authors, Evelyn Hannah and LeGrand Henderson, received national recognition in their own right. It depicted life in a mill town in the Cherokee Valley of Northern Georgia, and also publicized the humanitarian work of the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation. Shortly after the success of “Give Us This Night,” Slayden produced her second work, “Doctor Red” in 1941 (which quickly became a best seller), followed by “Bright Ramparts” in 1943.
Life drastically changed for the couple when Walter, now Captain Slayden was stationed in Marburg, Germany during WWII. She tells of the experience, “Once upon a time, before the Big War, I lived with my husband and typewriter in our house in Thomaston, Georgia, where my main problem was the weaving of intricate plots for my fictitious heroes and heroines. Then one thing led to another and I followed the same husband and brought the same typewriter to Marburg, Germany, where the facts of my new life as Frau Slayden sound more fantastic than any of my fiction.” (The Atlanta Journal Magazine, October 6, 1946) A caption from the referenced article (shown) states the Slaydens’ castle was confiscated in the de-Nazification of Germany, as the previous owner was classed a major offender.
In 1952, Thelma released her fourth and most ground-breaking novel, “Make Haste, My Beloved.” As research for her work, she spent time in the National Leprosarium in Carville, Louisiana. There she saw mistreatment over the stigma of those suffering from Hansen’s Disease. Moved by what she witnessed, Slayden made it her mission to help veterans who have contacted leprosy while in service. She made their plight known to Florida ex-senator Claude Pepper and convinced him to introduce the National Leprosy Act to the 81st Congress. Thanks to her efforts, servicemen began to receive the proper care and attention so needed.
Back here in Thomaston, Thelma was recognized by the Woodmen of the World in a special ceremony dedicated just to her. (See image) (Program for Dedication to Mrs. Thelma Thompson Slayden, 1952, Carolyn Andrews Black Collection, TUA)
In the course of her life, Thelma Thompson Slayden was President of the Atlanta Writer’s Club, Georgia State President of National League of Pen Women, was voted Who’s Who in the South & Southwest, and Who’s Who of American Women. Talk about a woman worth mentioning…
(Slayden, Thelma Thompson, Lateral Files: Genealogy, Thomaston-Upson Archives)
Posted on January 4, 2019 at 8:48 AM by Jamesan Stuckey
Posted on December 28, 2018 at 2:34 PM by Jamesan Stuckey