Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Bessie Wilson (Mrs. Charles) Goodman, 1878- 1950

By Leslie Spencer, Historian, Atlanta, Georgia

President, Atlanta Woman's Club; President, Atlanta Storytellers League

Bessie Wilson was born on October 6, 1878, in Anderson, South Carolina, to Samuel P. Wilson and Harriet C. Shields. She was the eldest of three, and her brothers were Joseph Diehl Wilson and Leo A. Wilson. After the family moved to Atlanta, Bessie Wilson attended the Girls High School, and later, the University of Tennessee. She returned to Atlanta to teach at her alma mater. Education remained a lifelong passion for her. Bessie Wilson married Charles Goodman, of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, on November 2, 1904. Charles served as an executive with Milton Bradley Company in Atlanta.

Goodman belonged to several civic organizations, including the Atlanta's Woman Club, where she served as president. She also promoted woman suffrage. She led several rallies and gave speeches contending that women should qualify to vote in the Atlanta primary. Through a number of organizations, she continued to champion causes to improve the quality of life for others. As a testament of her good works and encouragement to others, Charles and Bessie Goodman arranged to contribute to philanthropic endeavors, especially related to education.

Bessie Goodman died in Kiowa, Kansas, on June 26, 1950, after suffering a heart attack while vacationing in New Mexico. Charles Goodman survived her but was interred alongside her in Atlanta's Westview Cemetery upon his death in 1955. After her death, a museum was established in her honor.


Find a Grave. Bessie Wilson Goodman. Accessed June 21, 2018.

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]

“Mrs. Goodman Better.” Atlanta Constitution. June 27, 1950, p.2.

“Mrs. Goodman Rites Today at West View.” Atlanta Constitution. July 1, 1950, p.16.

United States Census 1910, s.v. “Bessie E. Goodman; Atlanta.”

U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, s.v. “Bessie Wilson, Anderson County, South Carolina.”

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