Diarist, activist. Georgia Cleveland was born in Laurensville, Georgia, on December 6, 1851, the daughter of Robert M. Cleveland and Fannie Leonard. She spent most of her early years in Bedford County, Tennessee. On November 4, 1871, she married John Bomar Cleveland of Spartanburg, South Carolina. They had seven children. A prominent businessman and industrialist, John Cleveland was related to President Grover Cleveland and served as a delegate to the 1884 Democratic National Convention. Both Georgia and her husband were noted in the Spartanburg community for their generosity, charity, and humanity. They played leading roles in the founding of Converse College in 1889, and their daughters attended school there. They lived within walking distance of both Converse and Wofford, and they were actively involved in each campus’s activities, frequently entertaining students in their home.
Georgia Alden Cleveland kept a detailed dairy from 1890 to 1914 in which she chronicled life as an upper-class, married, southern white female. Because of the richness of her entries, she left a legacy of South Carolina upcountry history that is useful on several levels: not only does it document local, state, and regional history but it also serves as a valuable record of Victorian female domesticity and a rare peek into a snippet of southern female life, from the mundane to the grand, over the course of twenty-four years.
Cleveland’s diary recorded a myriad of social, political, cultural, educational, and religious activities that filled her active life, including membership in the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, Daughters of the American Revolution, and United Daughters of the Confederacy. Furthermore, her entries are all-encompassing, acknowledging local, national, and world events as well as the customary domestic activities such as gardening, housekeeping, sewing, and paying social calls, while noting such meticulous details as weather conditions, temperatures, and lists of crops planted. She also wrote of births, deaths, and sicknesses among relatives and friends. She regularly traveled throughout South Carolina and the Southeast, even making a trip to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, and her descriptions of these destinations provide historically significant details and insights into that period. Nevertheless, her delight in her children, her strong Episcopal faith, and her charity to others are the prominent features throughout her diary that serve to underscore her strong character as an authentic authoress of South Carolina history and southern womanhood.
Cleveland’s last diary entry was January 23, 1914. She died in Baltimore on March 1, 1914, following surgery for stomach cancer. She was buried in the Episcopal Church of the Advent Cemetery in Spartanburg.
Cleveland, Mrs. John B. [Georgia Alden]. “Diary of Mrs. John B. Cleveland.” Typescript. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
“Mrs. Cleveland’s Funeral Today.” Spartanburg Herald, March 3, 1914, 1