Martha Berry’s life work centered on educating Appalachian mountain children so that they could progress in life.
Martha McChesney Berry was born on Turkey Town Plantation in Etowah County, Alabama on October 7, 1865. She was the second oldest daughter of Thomas and Frances Rhea Berry. In 1900, Martha began her Sunday schools and day schools in the Rome area, including one at Possum Trot, a one-room chapel up in the mountains.
On January 13, 1902, Berry established the Boys Industrial School, the start of a forty-year long project that would expand and evolve into today’s Berry College. The School for Boys began as a boarding school where boys with significant financial need came to work and learn. In 1909, Berry added the Martha Berry School for Girls. All of the schools were focused on Martha Berry’s ideal of educating the “Head, Heart and Hands” (education, faith, and work).
Martha Berry put enormous time and energy into the creation and support of her schools, travelling across the United States for fundraising. Friends and supporters included Henry and Clara Ford, presidents of the United States, Amelia Earhart, and many others. Throughout her life, Martha Berry was committed to a number of causes and organizations, and was presented with numerous awards and achievements. Martha Berry died on February 27, 1942 in Atlanta, Georgia.