Salley soon immersed herself in the woman suffrage movement. Claiming that it was “the best dollar I ever spent,” she responded to a newspaper advertisement to join the South Carolina Equal Suffrage League (SCESL).
Suffragist, realtor. Salley was born in Augusta, Georgia, on December 11, 1883, the daughter of Marguerite Eulalie Gamble and George Kinloch Chafee. Her father was in the kaolin (porcelain clay) business, and her mother was an accomplished pianist and product of one of Baltimore’s finest finishing schools. Salley spent an enjoyable but sickly youth, often with rheumatic fever, on her maternal grandparents’ plantation in Louisville, Georgia, before moving to Aiken in 1892. Her economic status and social class insured schooling by governesses, private tutors, and a year each at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia and at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. In 1906 she married the prominent lawyer Julian Booth Salley, then mayor of Aiken. She then bore two children and appeared headed for the life of a traditional southern lady.
Salley’s interest in women’s rights was sparked by the plight of Lucy Dugas Tillman, granddaughter of Lucy Pickens and wife of Ben Tillman, Jr., son of the prominent South Carolina senator. During Lucy’s illness, her husband had her two children deeded away to his mother. When she recovered, Lucy spent virtually everything she had in an unsuccessful bid to regain them in a case that called attention to women’s legal inequities.
Salley soon immersed herself in the woman suffrage movement. Claiming that it was “the best dollar I ever spent,” she responded to a newspaper advertisement to join the South Carolina Equal Suffrage League (SCESL). Salley then got five women together around 1912 and organized the Aiken County Equal Suffrage League, serving as its first president. Salley was an aggressive and innovative suffrage campaigner, traveling on unpaved county roads to canvass door-to-door, staging a myriad of fund-raisers (she once took boxing lessons and performed in a prizefight as a “Gold Dust Twin”), and riding in an airplane with a pilot scattering suffrage pamphlets over the town. Some, including her husband, regarded her actions as scandalous. Salley knew firsthand and greatly admired Carrie Chap- man Catt and Anna Howard Shaw, leaders of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and she had little regard for the “unladylike” militant wing of the movement. In 1919 Salley became SCESL president. Once suffrage was achieved, she joined in the formation of the South Carolina League of Women Voters (later serving as regional vice president), and she worked tirelessly to achieve its goal of ending discrimination against women. Salley was invited to stand behind the governor when he finally signed the Nineteenth Amendment into law in the state in 1969. Scolding Democrats by pointing out that it took a Republican senator to insure that the amendment was finally approved in South Carolina, the eighty-five-year-old Eulalie Salley remarked: “Boys, I’ve been waiting 50 years to tell you what I think of you.”
To fund her suffrage work, Salley applied for and received a real estate license in 1915, becoming the first woman realtor in the state and launching a career that helped put Aiken on the map and made her something of a legend. Her style of real estate catered to the needs of the growing numbers of wealthy people who came south for the winter between the two world wars. Clients found flowers in full bloom, well-trained servants, and a Salley-owned antique shop from which to furnish spacious “cottages,” with meals awaiting them on their arrival–all dovetailing with her slogan, “We do everything but brush your teeth.” In addition to selling at one time or another virtually “every large piece of property in Aiken,” Salley maintained an office in Beaufort and sold numerous large hunting preserves in the lowcountry. She knew personally many of the wealthy and famous who seasonally visited. Salley was among the founders of the Aiken Board of Realtors, vice president of the South Carolina Association of Real Estate Boards, and in 1959 was chosen the “First Lady of South Carolina Realtors.” Eulalie Salley and Company continued to thrive as a successful real estate company in Aiken after her death.
Long enamored with the life, beauty, and stories of Lucy Pickens, and disturbed at finding the historic Pickens house, Edgewood (near Edgefield), falling into disrepair, Salley impulsively purchased it. During the Great Depression it was moved piece by piece to Salley’s grandfather’s first homesite in Aiken and remained the Salley home until their deaths. Salley died on March 8, 1975, after a short bout with cancer. Ever the individualist, South Carolina’s “First Lady of Real Estate” insisted on burial, not with her husband, but in a “secondhand section” of St. Thaddeus Episcopal Cemetery, with only a single white camellia to mark her remains.
Bull, Emily L. Eulalie. Aiken, S.C.: Kalmia, 1973.
“Mrs. Salley, Leader of Suffrage, Dies.” Aiken Standard, March 10, 1975, p. 1.
Salley, Eulalie Chafee. Interview by Constance B. Myers. Tape recording. Winthrop University Archives, Rock Hill, South Carolina.
–––. Papers. South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia.