Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Sarah Berrien Casey Morgan, 1846-1931
By Linda Powers Bilanchone, Professor Emerita, Wofford College, Spartanburg, South Carolina
Sarah Berrien Casey was born in Augusta, Georgia, around 1846 to Dr. Henry R. and Caroline Rebecca Harriss Casey. Sarah Casey married Captain Thomas S. Morgan, and they had four sons. Sarah B. C. Morgan was a regent of the Augusta Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and her family proudly traced their lineage to personal connections of George Washington.
Morgan also played a role in the fight for woman suffrage. She was a leader among clubwomen in Georgia, and she believed that a woman's right to vote needed to be a central platform of Georgia women's organizations. In 1916, she was elected first vice president at the annual convention of the Equal Suffrage Party of Georgia, an affiliate branch of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). The Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs, however, had a much broader reach than the Equal Suffrage Party. The clubwomen extended into both rural and urban areas, making suffrage a controversial topic among clubwomen. During a 1919 convention, two resolutions were prepared regarding endorsement of the Federal Suffrage Amendment: One simply endorsed the amendment; the other, presented by Morgan, recommended ratification of the amendment, a bold move. The resolution for ratification was ruled out of order, but appealed, and carried by a vote of 85-40. These parliamentary actions took place at the end of the meeting, and several attendees had already left the convention. The anti-suffrage clubwomen were angered. Local Georgia clubs were urged to withdraw from the state federation. The Macon Telegraph, strongly anti-suffragist, expressed its approval of dismantling the federation. Six clubs resigned, but 69 new clubs joined the federation during the following year. Many women supported the suffrage movement, but others, especially rural women, did not. Since the federation was the largest women's organization in the state, there were many efforts to change its anti-suffragist stance. And seeking support, the Equal Suffrage Party courted the local presidents of federation clubs, but Georgians were not eager to support votes for women. Suffragists realized that local efforts were extraordinarily difficult, so they needed to rely on the federal government to extend voting rights to them.
After thirty-five states had ratified the federal amendment, the Equal Suffrage Party decided to change its purpose. The last meeting of the Equal Suffrage Party came during the founding of the National League of Women Voters (LWV) at a regional conference, and the Equal Suffrage Party officially merged into the LWV on April 3, 1920. Sarah B. C. Morgan was one of two women who were made honorary presidents for life in the new organization.
With federal woman suffrage secured, Morgan ran for political office in Savannah. While she was unsuccessful in her election bid for alderman, she did eventually serve. On January 18, 1923, Mayor Murray M. Steward and the Savannah city council elected Morgan as an. She filled a vacancy caused by the resignation of Dr. George White. The appointment was brief, a mere three days, and it was meant to be symbolic: the city council had its first woman as alderman.
Sarah Berrien Casey Morgan died June 28, 1931, in Savannah and is buried in with the Casey family in Magnolia Cemetery in Augusta, Georgia. The flag at city hall flew at half-staff to respect her memory, another first for women of Savannah.
Find A Grave. Sarah Berrien Casey Morgan. Accessed June 26, 2018. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/112746868/sarah-berrien-morgan.
“Flag Lowered for Woman: Savannah City Hall Emblem at Half-Staff for Former Official.” New York Times. July 12, 1931, p.E6. ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
Harper, Ida Husted, ed. “Georgia.” Chapter X in History of Woman Suffrage, vol. 6: 1900-1920, 121-143. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922. [LINK]
Logan, Mary Simmerson Cunningham. “Sarah Berrien Casey Morgan.” In The Part Taken by Women in American History, 432-43. Wilmington, DE: The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, 1912.
Padgett, Evelyn P. “Sarah Evelyn Casey Morgan.” November 18, 1987. Savannah Biographies, vol. 15. Roger K. Warlick, faculty advisor. Special Collections, Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, Georgia. Accessed June 26, 2018. http://library.armstrong.edu/Morgan_Sarah%20Berrien%20Casey.pdf.
Spracher, Luciana M. A Century of History: Savannah City Hall Centennial, 1906-2006. Savannah, Ga: City of Savannah, Research Library and Municipal Archives, January 2006. http://www.savannahga.gov/DocumentCenter/View/273/CityHall_ACenturyOfHistory_2006.