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Julia A. Flisch papers

Biographical Note

Julia Anna Flisch was born January 31, 1861, in Augusta, Georgia, daughter of Swiss-German immigrants Leonard Flisch, a "confectionary," and Pauline Flisch. She was the middle child, with an older brother, Henry and a younger sister, Leonnie. Prior to Flisch's birth, her father Leonard enlisted as a Private in the Lipscomb Volunteers division of the Confederate Army. When Flisch was just an infant, the family moved to Athens, Georgia, where they lived for approximately twenty years before returning to live in Augusta. Flisch graduated with honors from the Lucy Cobb Institute in Athens in 1877. She then applied for admission to the University of Georgia and was rejected on the basis that UGA was an all-male institution. Her rejection fueled her fight for educational opportunities for women across the state.

After the family's move from Athens to Augusta, Flisch published a letter to the editor in the Augusta Chronicle entitled "Give the Girls a Chance" and signed "A Young Woman" (1882). It was revealed two weeks later that the author was her, which gained the attention of co-editor and owner Patrick Walsh. Through Walsh's encouragement Flisch became a special correspondent for the Augusta Chronicle. Her articles and letters included a range of subjects including the appropriations of the Georgia legislature, involvement in the Spanish-American war, the Boston and New Orleans Expositions and opportunities for women. When Flisch was a student at the Coopers Institute in New York City (1883-1884), the Chronicle published letters from her on many facets of life in New York City, including window shopping, the stock market and building architecture. Upon her return to Georgia, Flisch mostly contributed articles on commencement and opportunities for women in the state of Georgia. She used her articles covering the commencements of the Emory and Wesleyan industrial departments to push the legislature towards creating a state-funded industrial school for women. Her articles were far reaching, with several accepted for publication in northern periodicals. She also published her first novel, Ashes of Hope, in 1886. The novel was well received during its time.

Flisch continued to advocate for women's education in Georgia through outspoken speeches to women's groups as well as articles in the Augusta Chronicle and Athens Banner. Because of her vocal advocacy of female education in Georgia, Flisch was asked to speak at the laying of the cornerstone for the Georgia Normal & Industrial College (G.N.&I.C.), the first state supported college for women in Georgia (1890). She was the only woman with a formal part on the program, and spoke to a mixed crowd of men and women, rare in the South. Her speech was published in several state newspapers.

Flisch served on the faculty of G.N.&I.C. where she was originally a professor of stenography and telegraphy. She later assumed the position of professor of History (1891-1905) teaching ancient and medieval history. It has been humorously noted by Flisch's students that "she had two brains." During her tenure at G.N.&I.C. she attended summer classes at the University of Chicago and Harvard University, as well as contributed articles and comments on current affairs to newspapers throughout the state as well as speak to women's organizations, growing her reputation as the most able and ready female speaker in the state of Georgia.  In 1899, over twenty year since her original rejection from the state university, the University of Georgia presented Flisch with the first honorary degree ever given by the insitution to a woman.

Upon her resignation from G.N.&I.C., Flisch entered the University of Wisconsin where she studied for her B.A. from 1905-1906 and received an M.A. in History with a minor in Political Economy (1908). As a student there she worked as an Office Assistant and Librarian for the University of Wisconsin library through the University Extension Division, and later as a secretary in the Department of Economics and Sociology. She was a salaried worker at the library from 1908-1909, earning $780 a year. Flisch studied under Frederick Jackson Turner and Ulrich Phillips, two of the most noted historians of this period. She was a close friend of Phillips' mother who worked at G.N.&I.C. in Milledgeville. Upon the death of Mrs. Phillips (1906), Flisch wrote a memorial article for the Union Recorder (Milledgeville). Flisch had two articles published in the American Historical Association Annual Report (1908-1909) which was a rare honor for a woman at this time.

Due to her mother's poor health, Flisch returned to Augusta (1908) where she began teaching at Tubman High School for Girls (1909). When the first junior college in Georgia was established in Augusta, Flisch was asked to serve as Dean of Women and Chair of the department of History (1926). Her second novel, Old Hurricane, was published this same year. Flisch retired from teaching in 1936 due to severe eye problems. 

Flisch was also active in numerous societies and organizations during her time in both Milledgeville and Augusta. Specific organizations include the Haynes Circle, a book club held in Augusta where Flisch spoke frequently on topics relating to literature including Shakespeare's Coriolanus and Antony and Cleopatra, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Equal Suffrage Party of Georgia, the League of Women Voters, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. In 1924, Flisch was notably selected as a delegate to the Georgia Democratic Convention held in Atlanta. She was an active part of the McAdoo campaign, serving on the Women's McAdoo Committee for Richmond County, GA. McAdoo is known for the riotous 1924 Democratic National Convention held in Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY often called the "Klanbake" because of the support from the KKK for McAdoo's campaign. 

Flisch died on March 17, 1941 and was buried at Magnolia Cemetery in Augusta, Georgia. In her obituaries she was lauded as "having done more than any other person to advance the cause of women's education in Georgia."