J. Jefferson Thomas, husband of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, shown many years after the Civil War, still wearing his Confederate uniform with knee-high leather boots and spurs.


The Life of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas (1834-1907)


Suffer and Grow Strong is a remarkable biography by Carolyn Curry that is destined to become a classic in women's studies. It tells the story of the redoubtable Ella Gertrude Thomas, who kept a vivid record of her life for forty-one years. Her courage and resilience during and after the Civil War are reminiscent of Scarlett O'Hara. History has been a great silencer of women, but Suffer and Grow Strong tells the tale of a white Southern woman who endures the whirlwind of the war and the deprivations of Reconstruction, then fought hard enough for women's rights that my grandmother was eligible to cast her first vote in 1920. This book is a great achievement for Carolyn Curry.

Pat Conroy, Author of The Prince of Tides,
The Death of Santini
, and other classics

In her role as unlikely feminist and a leader of the suffrage movement, Ella Gertrude Thomas could be the fictional heroine of a rip-roaring historical novel. Instead, Carolyn Curry brings to life a real woman whose courage and endurance is truly inspirational.

Cassandra King, Author of The Sunday Wife

Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas’s journals have long been an indispensable source for anyone seeking to understand the nineteenth-century South and Southern white women’s experiences. But surprisingly, Thomas has never been the subject of a full-length biography. Carolyn Curry’s welcome new book carefully documents Thomas’s life story and puts her journals into an intriguingly fresh context.

Michele Gillespie, Presidential Professor of History, Wake Forest University

Suffer and Grow Strong is a fascinating story of a remarkable Southern woman. Carolyn Curry ably brings Gertrude Thomas to life through extensive research and explores Thomas’s steel-willed determination to triumph over wartime dislocations and postwar deprivation, her spirited intellect and devotion to her family, and her passionate support of women’s rights—important and elegantly written contribution to Southern women’s history.

Kathryn Fuller-Seeley, Professor, University of Texas, Austin

As enjoyable as it is educational, Carolyn Curry's Suffer and Grow Strong utilizes journals and contemporary newspapers to vividly recreate the life of one of Georgia's earliest "feminists." In doing so, she teaches us about a more domestic Civil War, viewed through the experiences of the women left behind.

Morna Gerrard, Women and Gender Collections Archivist
Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library

Carolyn Curry’s Suffer and Grow Strong is a masterfully researched and written story of a remarkable woman, whose journals recorded soul and spirit and engaging insight into the exploding of history that both illuminated and scarred nineteenth-century America. Carolyn Curry has captured the quintessence of both character and period, and the result is a mesmerizing reading experience.

Terry Kay, Author of To Dance with the White Dog and The Book of Marie