Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920

Biography of Rose Mae Ashby, 1878-1959

By Kristina Graves, historian and educator; Stilwell School of the Arts, Atlanta, Georgia

Organizer and Lecturer for the Georgia Woman Suffrage Association

Rose Mae Salley was born in Missouri in March of 1878. Her parents were Erwin Salley of Kentucky and Orlean Salley of Tennessee. Erwin was a farmer in Liberty, Missouri (Pulaski County) and the family had six children: James, Robert, Carrie, Louetta, Rose, and Erwin. On September 8, 1898, at the age of twenty, Rose Mae married a traveling salesman by the name of David Elliot Ashby from Richland, Missouri. By 1900, the couple had moved to Lexington, Kentucky and Rose gave birth to her only son, Harold K. Ashby, on August 1, 1902. During this time, she studied psychology at the University of Kentucky.

By 1910, the family had moved once more to Atlanta, Georgia. While living in Atlanta, Mrs. Ashby became involved in the women's suffrage movement. She worked as the lead organizer for the Georgia Woman Suffrage Association under the direction of President Mary Latimer McLendon. In addition to serving as the head of the organization department, Ashby also served as a lecturer for the GWSA and President of the local Woman's Study Club, a group that sponsored lectures on a variety of issues, including women's suffrage and psychology.

Ashby worked as an organizer and lecturer for the Atlanta Equal Suffrage League with Amelia Woodhull. In 1914, Ashby gave a speech entitled "The Psychology of Woman Suffrage" for the members of the Atlanta Psychological Society. In 1916, as the Georgia suffrage organizations geared up for a fight in the Georgia state legislature, Ashby gave a series of talks on the issue of suffrage. Ashby was a lecturer in the AESL's suffrage school programs. In 1917, she was chosen to be a member of the Second Ward Committee for the municipal suffrage campaign. Ashby and other AESL members canvassed neighborhoods to gain petition signatures for securing municipal suffrage for Atlanta women. That same year, she served as parliamentarian for the organization.

In 1920, Rose and David Ashby divorced after twenty-two years of marriage. Rose Ashby remained in Atlanta with her son, Harold. In the years following the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, Ashby focused on travel and her work in the fields of psychology and metaphysics. She was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, a Masonic institution open to men and women, the International New Thought Alliance, and the Atlanta Psychological Society, which she organized in 1906. Ashby continued her work as a lecturer for these organizations, including trips to England and the Boston Metaphysical Club. In later years, she became a practitioner of yoga and traveled to India to study the ancient art of body movement.

On June 4, 1953, Ashby's son, Harold, died in Seattle Washington at the age of 50. On May 10, 1959, Rose Mae Ashby died at a private hospital in Atlanta. She was survived by her daughter-in-law, Frances, and four grandchildren, Henry, Frank, David, and Albert. She was eighty-two years old.

Photograph available in obituary.


"Mrs. Ashby Lectures." The Atlanta Constitution. 8 September 1913.

"Mrs. McLendon Again Elected." The Atlanta Constitution. 6 December 1919.

"Mrs. Rose M. Ashby, Dies; Psychology Lecturer Here." The Atlanta Constitution. 11 May 1959.

"Mrs. Woodall Chooses Ten Ward Committees." The Atlanta Constitution. 21 January 1917.

"David Ashby." Biographical Sketch. Accessed via Website.

"Rose M. Salley/Ashby." Biographical Sketch. Accessed via Website.

"Society Notices." The Atlanta Constitution. 3 June 1914.

"Suffrage Calendar for Week." The Atlanta Constitution. 3 October 1915.

"Suffrage Leaders Planning for Fight in the Legislature." The Atlanta Constitution. 29 June 1916.

"'The Time Came,' Mrs. Ashby Went to Far Corners." The Atlanta Constitution. 8 March 1958.

Atlanta, Georgia City Directory, 1900-1920. United States City Directories. 1822-1995. Accessed via Website.

Taylor, Elizabeth. "Woman Suffrage Activities in Atlanta," in The Atlanta Historical Journal, 1979-1980, Volume XXIII, Number 4.

United States Bureau of the Census, 10th Census of the United States, 1880-Population, Accessed via Website.

United States Bureau of the Census, 11th Census of the United States, 1890-Population, Accessed via Website.

United States Bureau of the Census, 12th Census of the United States, 1900-Population, Accessed via Website.

United States Bureau of the Census, 13th Census of the United States, 1910-Population, Accessed via Website.

United States Bureau of the Census, 14th Census of the United States, 1920-Population, Accessed via Website.

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