A Woman to Know: Georgia Gilmore

What we could do best was cook. — Georgia Gilmore

What we could do best was cook. — Georgia Gilmore

(image via The Civil Rights Digital Library)

Georgia could cook. She cooked everything — pork chops, fried chicken, poundcakes, fruit pies and more.

In 1955, after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, Georgia put her cooking skills to the test. She assembled a group of other female cooks in Montgomery, Ala. to create “The Club from Nowhere.” The club, so named to protect the anonymity of its members, started cooking up a storm. They prepared meals for civil rights activists at the Montgomery Improvement Association and sold food to fund the ongoing bus boycott.

The women, led by Georgia, started selling sandwiches and other food out of hair salons, barber shops, church meetings, laundromats and even their own homes. Soon enough, the club’s cooking brought in hundreds of dollars every week, all of which Georgia funneled directly to the boycotters. They’d present their earnings at the weekly Montgomery Improvement Association meetings, to massive applause from the other organizers.

Georgia’s work inspired other “ordinary activists” to bring their own seemingly mundane skills to use funding the 381-day boycott. She later said that the women of her “Club from Nowhere” brought much-needed grassroots energy to the movement.

“You see they were maids, cooks,” she said. “And they was the ones that really and truly kept the bus running. And after the maids and the cooks stopped riding the bus, well, the bus didn’t have any need to run.”

The Montgomery Improvement Association encouraged Georgia to keep cooking and organizing after the boycott ended. She set up a catering business and restaurant in her Montgomery home, where people of all backgrounds “elbowed together” to get a plate. She died in 1990, while making food for honorees at a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the historic March on Selma. The food she was preparing that day was served to her mourners.

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