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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eulalie Salley, September 15, 1973. Interview G-0054. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Salley's devotion to women's suffrage and women's rights

In this entertaining yet shocking excerpt, Salley reveals why she became so passionately involved in women's suffrage and the lengths she would consider going to protect herself and her children, even at the risk of losing her freedom or injuring her husband.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eulalie Salley, September 15, 1973. Interview G-0054. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

CONSTANCE MYERS:
Tell me what you did in your meetings in Aiken when Miss Wright came over from Augusta.
EULALIE SALLEY:
We got these women together and persuaded them to join an organization. The thing that got them stirred up was this Tillman case.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Tell me about the Tillman case.
EULALIE SALLEY:
You didn't know about the Tillman case?
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Mrs. Lucy Pickens Tillman?
EULALIE SALLEY:
Yes.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Yes, you told me about that last time. I do know her. You used this one issue as a device?
EULALIE SALLEY:
That was the main thing that spurred me on to the whole movement.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
And it also spurred others.
EULALIE SALLEY:
Other women. It appalled women to think that they didn't have any right to their own children, that a man has a right to left you bear children and then take them away from you at will. That was the most dastardly thing on this earth.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
So you were able to get a group of women around it using this one incident as a focal point.
EULALIE SALLEY:
Yes, the Tillman case was the one case that caused them to rally around that standard. The feeling was so great when we organized that suffrage club here in Aiken, so many men forbade their wives to attend the meeting or to join. One man told his wife, "Now, I'll kill you if you join those suffragists." She slipped off one day and said "I'm going to join anyhow. I don't trust that husband of mine. He might take my children away any day." I said, "Well, according to the South Carolina law he can do it." One day she came in her eyes were all red, her face was all bruised up. I said, "What's the matter with you?" "Well," she said, "after the last meeting I went home and my husband beat me up. Now, what would you advise me to do?" "Well," I said, "it's plain enough if he was my husband. I would either shoot him or poison him." She says, "Thank you, Mrs. Salley," and walked out of the office. I didn't think anything more about it.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
In a way, you were joshing.
EULALIE SALLEY:
No I wasn't.
CONSTANCE MYERS:
You were serious.
EULALIE SALLEY:
I meant it. I'll tell you, I had the strongest feeling about it. I think I was ready to shoot any man who would do that. I had two children that I loved very much. If my husband had tried to take them, I would have killed him in a minute. The next morning I picked up the paper and I was just horrified. I saw where he'd gone out on a trip and come in. She'd given him a glass of buttermilk and he was overheated. He keeled over and died. Well, it served him right. She came in the next day, two days afterwards, long black veil. She said, "Have you heard of my bereavement?" I said, "Your bereavement! I heard of your good fortune." She said, "Now, what would you advise me to do?" I said, "Just between you and me, I advise you to leave town just as quick as you can." She left. I haven't seen that woman since. She killed that man as sure as day. And my husband was horrified. He said, "Well, I'm your husband and I'm an attorney but I'm going to refuse to defend you because you are going to be tried for an accessory after the fact." "Well," I said, "if I am tried and convicted and serve a sentence, that will attract every woman to my cause all the more because I'm sacrificed for a noble cause."
CONSTANCE MYERS:
And what was his reaction to that?
EULALIE SALLEY:
He said, "I'll be god damned."
CONSTANCE MYERS:
Oh, Mrs. Salley, you're great.