Mildred Seydell

Mildred Seydell

Mildred Seydel at work
Born Mildred Rutherford Wooley
(1889-03-21)March 21, 1889
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Died February 20, 1988(1988-02-20) (aged 98)
Roswell, Georgia, U.S.
Occupation Writer
Children Paul Vasser Seydel
John Rutherford Seydel

Mildred Seydell (born Mildred Rutherford Woolley; March 21, 1889 – February 20, 1988) was a American pioneering woman journalist in Georgia breaking the gender barrier in newspapers in the state.[1][2] Seydel wrote as a syndicated columnist and founded the Seydell Journal, a quarterly journal that was the successor to[3] The Think Tank a short-lived biweekly journal of poetry, articles and reviews (1940–1947) (with the catchphrase/logo Drop it into your thoughts and see the best splash in print).[4] She also founded the Mildred Seydell Publishing Company,[1][2] and was a regular on the lecture circuit.[5]

Early life

Seydell's parents were Vasser Woolley, an attorney and businessman from Atlanta, and Bessie Cobb Rutherford, the daughter of Colonel John Cobb Rutherford, who was also an attorney.[6][7][8] Named for her grandfather's sister Mildred Lewis Rutherford,[upper-alpha 1] Seydell was the elder of two children.[6][7] Her brother Vasser Woolley, Jr., six or seven years younger than she, would follow their father in business.[10][11] Seydell matriculated from the Lucy Cobb Institute in Athens, Georgia before attending the Sorbonne.[6]


In 1922, she began her career as a journalist with the Charleston Gazette, a West Virginia newspaper.[12] In 1924 she moved to Atlanta as a correspondent for that paper.[13] She was affiliated with the Atlanta Georgian, one of William Randolph Hearst's string of newspapers,[1] working there from 1926 until its closing in 1938.[14]

Seydell was twice married. Her first marriage was from 1910 to 1944 to Paul Bernard Seydel, a Belgian chemist/scientist[15] whom she met while studying at the Sorbonne.[14] Their children were Paul and John. After Mr. Seydel died from complications of a colectomy,[15] she married Max Seydel, her first husband's brother in 1947. For two decades, Belgium was their home, until their return in 1967 to Atlanta.[1][14] She adopted his last name with two "L"s as her professional/pen name at the beginning of her journalistic career.[1][12][14]

She reported on the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925.[1][16] The Scopes trial was her first major story, and she interviewed Harold E. "Red" Grange, and was pictured doing his hand reading, a technique she used to "break the ice" with an interview subject.[2][17] Seydell employed the stratagem of hand reading to increase her readership, asserting to discover the intimate personality characteristics of big names such as U.S. vice president Charles G. Dawes and film director Cecil B. DeMille.[1] She even claimed to have been able to read the palms of a well known circus gorilla called Sultan (aka "John Daniel II").[1] During the Scopes trial, Seydell was sent with a picture of a monkey's hand, and was photographed comparing the hands of the Bible toting judge John T. Raulston, Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan to it. [upper-alpha 2]

During her career, she interviewed Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini in 1926,[1] Risto Ryti, the Finnish President and Jean Sibelius were interviewed by her while she was on tour in Finland and Lapland.[5]{ Other notable personages interviewed included (in alphabetical order): Mrs. Edvard Beneš, George Cukor, Madam Ève Curie, Marion Davies, and Bette Davis.[12] She was quoted as having once opined she "much preferred to set the stage for adventure rather than the table for dinner".[14][16] Her interviews appeared in her column, Talks with Celebrities, (Hollywood celebrities mostly) which was carried in 27 Hearst papers and the Universal News Service.[14][19] Other columns included What Would You Do? (advice column from 1926 to 1931) renamed as Mildred Seydell Says... in 1933,[12] and All in a Day.[1][12]

In her columns, she detailed to suffering of the unemployed in the 1930s, and offered advice.[20]

Seydell became intertwined with the National Woman's Party and the struggle for equal rights following passage of the 19th Amendment. In 1931 and 1932, she was Chairperson of Atlanta and Georgia, respectively. In 1935 she became associate editor of Equal Rights, its national publication.[1][12][21]

Other women's organizations in which she was active included: League of Women Voters, League of American Pen Women (on March 13, 1931, after meeting with the national president, she was one of 15 Charter members of the Atlanta Branch[22]), National Federation of Press Women, Pan American League, Atlanta Women's Chamber of Commerce; and Atlanta Woman's Club. From 1941-43, Seydell served as President of the Atlanta Federation of Women's Clubs. Seydell was also active in the Federation of American Women's Club Overseas (in Belgium) and American Woman's Club of Brussels.[12]

Seydell was an enthusiastic supporter of the Tallulah Falls School,[23] "the only school in the United States which is owned and operated by a state federation of women's clubs." It was founded in 1909 by the Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs. As Seydell wrote in the Atlanta Georgian, “The school is called the ‘Light in the Mountains’ because ignorance is darkness and knowledge is light."[23]

President Franklin D. Roosevelt is claimed to have said "am much interested in your articles".[5]

She was an accomplished traveler, in her career having gone to at least 52 "far lands."[5]

In 1973, she was honored by the Belgian government with the Order of Leopold for cultural exchange contributions between Belgium and the United States.[12] It is one of the orders of knighthood; the highest order of Belgium and named in honor of King Leopold I.

She wrote and planned to publish her autobiography The Record on the Wall.[5] Apparently, it was not published. The manuscript is at the Emory Library.[12]

Death and beyond

Her papers and memorabilia are massively collected (67.5 feet (20.6 m) linear) at Emory University.[12]

A collection of early and rare Belgian poetry and masterpiece books was created by her at Emory University Library in 1971, in honor of her late husband Paul.[24] It was a gift of the charitable foundation, organized in 1982, which bears their names.[25][26]

In a Georgia State Capitol ceremony on Martin Luther King Day in 2012, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal quoted Chins Up! by Mildred Seydell: "Great men don't hate. They are too busy with their accomplishments. Hate flourishes in the breasts of those who have time to feel their wrongs. Hate is the weapon of the defeated, love that of the victor. No man ever won by hating, but many have conquered by loving."[27]

Published works



  1. Parenthetically, the great aunt joined the Georgia Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage and became a "vocal opponent" of women's suffrage and the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and spearheaded the state organization that convinced Georgia voters to be the first state to reject it. Nevertheless, it was ratified on August 18, 1920, and would apply to Georgia notwithstanding its rejection.[9]
  2. Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune's editorial cartoonist Carey Orr drew a cartoon “supporting the proposition that ‘Man is not related to the monkey... The proposition would get a lot of support if monkeys could vote on it’”. The Tribune was in a fierce circulation war with the Hearst paper, the Chicago Herald-Examiner.[18]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Lisby, Gregory C. (May 5, 2010). "Mildred Seydell (1889-1988)". The New Georgia Encyclopedia. Georgia State University. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 "Mildred Seydell". Digital Library of Georgia. Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  3. "Mildred Seydell". Georgia Encyclopedia. courtesy of Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
  4. "The Think Tank". Georgia Encyclopedia, courtesy of Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 "Brochure for Chins up and lecture series" (PDF). University of Iowa. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  6. 1 2 3 Marshall, Anne E. (January 29, 2010). "Mildred Lewis Rutherford (1851-1928)". The New Georgia Encyclopedia. University of Georgia. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  7. 1 2 Sorley, Merrow Egerton (1935). Lewis of Warner Hall: the history of a family, including the genealogy of descendants in both the male and female lines, biographical sketches of its members, and their descent from other early Virginia families. Genealogical Publishing Com. p. 463. ISBN 978-0-8063-0831-9.
  8. "Williams Rutherford". The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. J.T. White. 1899. p. 183. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  9. McRae, Elizabeth Gillespie (Winter 1998). "Caretakers of Southern Civilization: Georgia Women and the Anti-Suffrage Campaign, 1914-1920". Georgia Historical Quarterly. Georgia Historical Society. 82: 801–28.
  10. Murnane, Margaret. "Vasser Woolley Lecture". Georgia Tech. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  11. "History". The Seydel Companies, Inc. Retrieved January 28, 2011.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Seydell papers, including extended biography of Mildred Seydell". Emory University Library. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  13. "Mildred Seydell multimedia". Courtesy of Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Obituary, Mildred Seydell, Journalist". Herald Journal. February 22, 1988. p. B2. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  15. 1 2 "History". The Seydel Companies. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  16. 1 2 "Obituary: Mildred Seydell; Journalist, 98". Associated Press/New York Times. February 21, 1988. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  17. "Journalist Mildred Seydell does a "hand reading" on Harold E. "Red" Grange". Georgia Encyclopedia. courtesy of Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
  18. Teel, Leonard Ray (2006). The public press, 1900-1945: the history of American journalism. 5. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group, Praeger Publishers. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-275-98166-2. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
  19. Lisby, Gregory C.; Harris, Linda L. (Winter 1991). "Georgia Reporters at the Scopes Trial: A Comparison of Newspaper Coverage". Georgia Historical Quarterly. Georgia Historical Society. 75: 784–803. Retrieved January 24, 2012.
  20. Blackwelder, Julia Kirk (Summer 1977). "Quiet Suffering: Atlanta Women in the 1930s". The Georgia Historical Quarterly. Georgia Historical Society. 61 (2): 112–124. JSTOR 40580362.
  21. Anderson, Karen Darlene (2000). Mildred Seydell and the National Woman's Party: 1931-1945. Georgia State University. p. 254.
  22. "National Legal of American Pen Women, Atlanta Branch". Retrieved January 26, 2012.
  23. 1 2 Fishback, Carrie, Chairman. "Tallulah Falls School". GFWC Buford Lanier Woman's Club d.b.a. Buford Lanier Woman's Club. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
  24. "Paul Bernard and Mildred Wooley Seydel Memorial Collection". Emory University Library. Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  25. "John Rutherford Seydel, II". Davis, Pickren, Seydel & Snead. Retrieved January 25, 2012.
  26. "Paul B. Seydel and Mildred Seydell Foundation". Manta. Retrieved January 26, 2012.
  27. McKee, Don (January 17, 2011). "Don McKee: Governor Deal's MLK Day message worth repeating". Marietta Daily Journal. Retrieved January 25, 2012.

Further reading

External links

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