Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Aurelia Roach McMillan, 1860-1957
By Debra Bloom, Richland Library, Columbia, S.C.
Aurelia Roach McMillan was a successful Atlanta educator and an active member of the Atlanta Women's Suffrage League. Brought up in an upper middle class Atlanta household, Aurelia was raised by her parents, Dr. Elisha James Roach (1833-1890) and Nancy Ellen Mitchell (1835-1910). Dr. Roach, a popular Atlanta physician, became an active participant in local politics following his move to Atlanta in 1854. In 1872, when Atlanta's newly organized school board was formed, Dr. Roach was elected one of the first school board members. He remained on the board for 18 years. Dr. Roach instilled Aurelia with his passion for education.
Miss Roach began her teaching career at the Atlanta Girls High School. Promotion came quickly and in 1891 she was appointed principal at the popular Crew Street Grammar School. Under her leadership the school became one of Atlanta's largest and most prominent elementary schools with 750 students and 16 teachers in 1897. Aurelia remained the Crew Street principal for 19 years.
Aurelia also had a passion for family history. At her death, in 1957, she was the last surviving charter member of the Georgia Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and a longtime member of the Colonial Dames lineage society. Miss Roach also loved to travel and crossed the pond 10 times. One of her European tours had a lasting effect on her political growth as a suffragist.
Either by accident or design, Aurelia Roach found herself in London, July 26, 1913, among the 50,000 suffragists and right to vote supporters in attendance for the Great Pilgrimage rally. The Great Pilgrimage, organized by the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), was a peaceful march of suffragists supporting a women's right to vote but denouncing the violent extremes of British suffragettes. Women and men, supporting peaceful protest and voting rights, endured a six-week journey from the farthest reaches of England. The march ended with a boisterous political rally in London's Hyde Park, led by NUWSS leader Millicent Fawcett.
On October 8, 1913, after her safe return home, Aurelia Roach gave an account of the rally to the Atlanta Women's Suffrage League. During the January 1914 meeting it was reported that Miss Roach was among the “prominent people” to join the Atlanta Suffrage League. From 1914-1919 Miss Roach participated in several committees for the suffrage organization and was elected chairman of the DeKalb and Fulton County branch of the Atlanta Suffrage League.
After serving as an educator for nearly 30 years in the Atlanta school system Miss Roach resigned her position and married James McMillan in 1919. The union was short lived. Within a year the couple were living separately and soon divorced. Aurelia Roach McMillan spent her retirement years traveling and supporting the Georgia chapter of the DAR.
Robinson, Jane. Hearts and Minds: the untold story of the great pilgrimage and how women won the vote, Transworld Publishers, 2018.
“Dr. Roach dead”, September 12, 1890.
“The new teachers”, June 7, 1891.
“Crew Street School and its proud record”, February 25, 1897.
“Many members won for suffrage league”, October 9, 1913.
“Mrs. Whiteside slated to head suffragists”, January 11, 1914.
“Board meets Tuesday”, April 12, 1914.
“City suffragists will not request local dance hall”, July 11 1915.
“Mr. J. W. McMillan weds Miss Aurelia Roach, March 29, 1919.
“Mrs. Aurelia McMillan, 92, school ex-principal, dies”, December 30, 1957.