Dr. Sandra Godwin receives award for her co-authored book


Isbellea van der Lende

The Georgia Historical Records Advisory Council has recently awarded GC’s Dr. Sandra Godwin, and her co-author Dr. Helen Matthew Lewis, the Award for Excellence in Documenting

Georgia’s History for their book “A White Liberal College President in the Jim Crow South: Guy Herbert Wells and the YWCA at Georgia State College for Women, 1934-1953.”


The book follows the political turmoil of President Guy Herbert Wells during his time at GC, which at the time was called Georgia State College for Women (GSCW).


Dr. Godwin stated that the original idea for the book was to focus on the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) at GSCW during Wells’ presidency, but as she did more research, she uncovered a larger story.


Helen Matthew Lewis, a sociologist who graduated from GSCW in 1946, is a white woman who was a member of the YWCA during Wells’ presidency.


“I met (Lewis) when she came to campus for an alumni award in 2005. We developed a friendship and a working relationship and she told me that she wanted to write a book about the Young Women’s Christian Association,” stated Dr. Godwin, “I didn’t realize it was such a powerful organization, particularly for white women in the 1930s and 40s who were questioning the racial status quo.”


According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, Dr. Lewis, who was born and raised in Georgia, was and continues to be an activist and an ally to many marginalized groups.


The original idea for the book came from Dr. Lewis, and her interest in how the YWCA and religion can have a role in activism and social change.


In a 2015 interview with University of Kentucky students, Dr. Lewis stated that GSCW is where she became involved in inter-racial activities through the YWCA, and is what really “radicalized” her in a sense.


Dr. Godwin was able to reference various archives including the GC archives, the national YWCA archives, and the archives of many other women’s colleges in the state of Georgia.


Through the archives and the information Dr. Lewis was able to contribute, Dr. Godwin discovered President Wells’ positioning in what she described to be the early Civil Rights Movement.


“In some ways, (Wells’) ideas were compatible with the Young Women’s Christian Association, in the sense that he had liberal values on race,” stated Dr. Godwin, “As many other white liberals at the time, that meant he supported segregation.”


In the book, Dr. Godwin writes about what it meant to be a white liberal man during the Jim Crow era, and argues that he was very “back and forth” on his stances.




Front row from the left:

Catherine Leathers Hartley (GSCW 1948)

Bob Stuart (husband of Emily Cottingham Stuart)

Emily Cottingham Stuart (YWCA resident secretary/director at GSCW, 1943-1947)

Helen Matthews Lewis (GSCW 1946)

Sandra Godwin


A group photo from 2010 in Blacksburg, Virginia, when Godwin interviewed Emily Cottingham Stuart who served as the YWCA resident secretary at GSCW as an undergraduate.