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Oakland HerStory: Sarah White Carlisle

Oakland HerStory: Sarah White Carlisle

Post Series: Oakland Herstory

In honor of Women’s History Month, HOF will recognize the stories of a few incredible Oakland women whose contributions and achievements broke barriers, defied expectations, and often went unsung. These are the women who built, led, and shaped Atlanta.

Sarah White Carlisle is often recognized as the “Mother of Atlanta.” Sarah was born in Marietta in 1825 and she married 21-year-old Willis Carlisle in 1841. On the advice of the preacher who married them, the young couple moved to Terminus, the rough and rowdy railroad settlement that became the city of Atlanta.

A friend secured the couple a house, but when they arrived, they found it full of people who refused to vacate. Alone in the wilderness, Sarah and Willis found an old shanty to spend the night. Before they could move in, they had to clear out the cattle that were living inside. This first day in Terminus must have been stressful for the couple, but was likely worse for Sarah, who was seven-months pregnant at the time.

The pair moved into a one-room cabin on Marietta Road, which served both as a home and the grocery store that Willis set up. Sarah traveled back to Marietta to give birth since there was no doctor in Terminus. She delivered a healthy daughter, Julia, in August 1842. Both mother and daughter returned to Terminus a few weeks later, and Julia Carlisle has the distinction of being the first white baby in Atlanta.

As matriarch of her family, Sarah supported her husband while he served as town marshal and raised their children. Sarah gave birth to six more children about Julia. Willis Carlisle died during a typhoid epidemic in 1859. Sarah Carlisle, the “Mother of Atlanta,” died in 1898 and was buried here at Oakland next to her husband.

HOF is celebrating the women of Oakland during the month of March. Here’s how you can take part:

  • Support the restoration of the 1908 Women’s Comfort Station by buying a ticket to Cocktails and Conservation on Sunday, March 24. This can’t-miss event will be held at the Wimbish House, the historic home of the Atlanta Woman’s Club.

Tours start at the Bell Tower Building. No reservations are required.

Marcy Breffle

Education Manager

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