Living in the Cline Mansion

 “My standard is: When in Rome, do as you done in Milledgeville.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

Letter to Maryat Lee May 19, 1957. O’Connor: Collected Works. Edited by Sally Fitzgerald. New York: Library of America, 1988.


Flannery and her mother moved back to Milledgeville in the fall of 1941. Her father stayed in Atlanta for his job, but his health declined so much that he had to resign his position and move into the Cline Mansion with his family. On February 1, 1941, Flannery’s father died at the age of forty-five. Her father’s death deeply impacted the fifteen year old. She handled her grief by rarely speaking of her beloved father again.

Flannery lived in the Cline Mansion with her mother and three unmarried aunts while she attended Peabody High School and Georgia State College for Women (now Georgia State College & University). Aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends and honored guests constantly filled the Cline Mansion for Sunday lunches, teas and suppers. Flannery often escaped to the attic for privacy and a chance to draw and write at her tall clerk’s desk. From the window, Flannery could observe her pet geese in the backyard. Visit Georgia’s Virtual Vault to see an image of the Cline Mansion.

Flannery’s mother helped her shy daughter get started with the high school newspaper Peabody Palladian. Flannery became the paper’s art editor and contributed writings and cartoons for the newspaper. Flannery created hundreds of linocut cartoons in her high school and college days.  Want to learn more about linocut and make your own block cartoon? Visit the Kinder Art site for instructions and a video on linocut.

Flannery continued writing and making cartoons when she started college. By her senior year, Flannery was editor and chief of her school’s literary magazine the Corinthian, feature editor for the yearbook Spectrum, and art director of the school newspaper the Colonnade. Flannery dreamed of studying journalism and turning cartoon making into a career.

America entered World War II during Flannery’s senior year of high school. News of the war inspired several names for Flannery’s pet birds, including a black crow named for Winston Churchill and a rooster named after Adolph Hitler. World War II impacted Flannery’s life far beyond the naming of her chickens. GSCW offered a three-year wartime track requiring Flannery to attend summer courses in addition to the usual fall and spring semesters, meaning her college career started just a few weeks after her high school career ended.

The GSCW stayed busy with wartime activities. Organizations like the Red Cross and Civilian Morale Service operated out of buildings on campus with students acting as volunteers. Students did without sugar, gasoline, meat and other products due to rationing. In January 1943, GSCW became home to a unit of the Navy’s newly created Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Services or WAVES. The Waves lived in campus dormitories, marched in drills around campus and attended lectures preparing them for duty on naval stations. The WAVES became a regular topic of Flannery’s cartoons in the Palladian. Want to see a few examples of Flannery’s witty cartoons about the WAVES and college life? Visit Fantagraphics Books preview of Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons.

On May 8, 1945 Victory in Europe day marked the official end of war in Europe. A little over a month later, Flannery graduated from GSCW with a degree in Social Science and a full-ride journalism scholarship to the University of Iowa.


Georgia and World War II

World War II transformed Georgia. Some 320,000 Georgians served in the U.S. Armed Forces during the war, and tens of thousands of others, including historic numbers of women, served in wartime industries. Every major Georgia city housed a military installation. Follow the links to learn more about the Georgia Flannery experienced during her college years.

More about the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service  (WAVES)

Today in Georgia History

World War II from the Online Exhibit Three Centuries in Georgia History


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