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Julia Tutwiler—Reformer

Julia Tutwiler was an extraordinary person. She served as a bridge between the Old South and the New South, and likewise between the traditional domestic roles of women and the more recent world of women's careers. She was raised at Greene Springs to believe that education should be available to every person, regardless of race or gender. Her parents' views were not typical of the antebellum South. They were slaveowners who doubted the morality of slavery and who instilled in their children a lifelong concern for black citizens. They opposed secession but loyally supported the Confederacy. Thus Julia Tutwiler was accustomed to a critical view of white Southern society. However, like her parents, she was loyal to her state and region. She wrote the song "Alabama," now the state song, while studying in Europe.

During much of the late nineteenth century, Tutwiler was the most visible woman in Alabama. She was determined to advance the cause of women's education, but in ways that would not alarm the men who ran society. Fortunately for her, she was a fine lobbyist, able to convince boards of trustees and politicians that they could serve justice without threatening the status quo. Working within the framework of national organizations such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union, she was able to merge the roles of southern lady and professional reformer.

Her genteel, gradual approach did not serve her so well in her efforts to bring about prison reforms. Though she worked with politicians and labor advocates against the convict lease system, it persisted until the late 1920's. On balance, though, Tutwiler's accomplishments were impressive. She was responsible for real improvements in women's education and she did a great deal of good for the comfort and education of prisoners. The state has given her name to women's dormitories at Alabama colleges and to the Alabama women's prison. These facts are proof that Tutwiler was well able to work for reform without alienating powerful men.