In Memoriam: Martha Cunningham Monteith (1921-2019)

Martha MonteithMartha Cunningham Monteith passed away Saturday, July 27, 2019. A pioneer in speech pathology, she was the first trained speech therapist employed by the South Carolina public school system, establishing the inaugural program at Richland County District One in 1949. Over the years, she worked to secure state funding for speech and hearing services for all public schools in South Carolina. She also helped establish the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at both SC State University (c. 1954-1962) and University of South Carolina (1966).

Mrs. Monteith also actively participated in much of the work of her husband, Dr. Henry D. Monteith, a well-known local physician and community leader. She promoted the many services offered by the Victory Savings Bank within the community during its leadership by Dr. Monteith from 1945-1980. She also helped him with his medical home visits and served with him on the board for the Palmetto Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association Women’s Auxiliary.

Mrs. Monteith did great work for her community as an activist and later as a benefactor. She participated in the Civil Rights Movement by working on influential projects including the successful integration of the University of South Carolina in 1963 by her niece, Dr. Henrie Monteith Treadwell. She also worked to preserve sites of historical and educational significance, including her sister-in-law Modjeska Monteith Simkins’ home and the Monteith School (now Booker T. Washington – Monteith Cultural Center). Both sites have been placed on the National Historic Registry. As a member of the Benefactors Society of the Richland County Public Library Trust, she donated the Cunningham-Monteith Large Picture Center at the Richland County Public Library. In 2005, she participated in an oral history interview with the library wherein she discusses her time teaching for Richland School District One, life in Columbia during segregation, and the history of the Monteith School.

Martha MonteithMrs. Monteith became a supporter of USC’s Special Collections upon the donation of  the papers of her sister-in-law, Modjeska Simkins, to SCPC, which now is also receiving the papers of her niece, Henrie Monteith Treadwell, and most recently Mrs. Monteith’s own papers. Upon retirement, she spent her time travelling the world with Dr. Treadwell. A devoted singer, Mrs. Monteith was often hired to sing at weddings and other events during her time in college, and actively participated in her church group as a vocalist in the Women’s Missionary Society. She was also an avid hat collector, as evidenced by her participation in the Turner Memorial A.M.E. Hat Divas group.

Her papers consist of about 1 linear foot of material from 1938 to 2016, all of which is digitized and can be viewed here. Mrs. Monteith will be greatly missed. We send our regards to her family during this time.

written by Chauna Carr

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