Gertrude <I>Davidson</I> Coleman

Gertrude Davidson Coleman

Springfield, Clark County, Ohio, USA
Death 22 Nov 1924 (aged 37)
Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama, USA
Burial Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama, USA
Plot Block 17 Lot 59
Memorial ID 133814418 · View Source
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Evelyn Gertrude Davidson Coleman was born in Springfield, Ohio on August 4, 1887 to John Davidson and Eleanor S. Davidson (of Bournemouth, England).

She was raised in Berkeley, California and graduated from University of California Berkeley in 1908. She was an authority on languages and literature, having studied at both American and European universities. She studied for a time at Oxford and completed her literary work at Florence, Rome, and at the Sarbonne, Paris.

During WWI, she served in the Red Cross in Italy in a unit organized by Mrs. Thomas Nelson Page. Tomas Nelson Page served as the U.S. ambassador to Italy during WWI under the administration of President Woodrow Wilson.

Gertrude Davidson moved to Birmingham, Jefferson County, AL before 1921 and married John Shields Coleman on July 7, 1921. She became the first Commissioner of the (then) Jefferson County Council of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

As the first commissioner of the Jefferson County Council, Gertrude D. Coleman was responsible for bringing Girl Scouting to the region. Organized in 1912 in Savannah, GA by Juliette Gordon Low, the Girl Scout movement expanded rapidly, with a number of councils located across the state of Alabama by 1917. Although troops existed earlier, it is thought that Mrs. Coleman served as the employed "commissioner" of Girl Scouts only after her marriage in June, 1921.

Partnering with influential Birmingham families including Stockham, Jemison, Sloss, Rust, Stevens, Ward, Shook, and Eagan (to name a few) she was successful in raising the funds needed to bring Girl Scouting to Jefferson County and extend the Girl Scout experience to its girls.

The earliest know reference to Girl Scouting in Jefferson County is in the form of a photograph captioned "Waiting at station for train to Winnataska" dated 1919. The Jefferson County Girl Scout council received important assistance from Tennessee Coal and Iron (TCI) in organizing the first few troops in the area. Many of the first troops were formed of girls living in the TCI company housing project.

Gertrude D. Coleman died on November 22, 1924 at age 37 as a result of complications of childbirth. She had a Cesarean section on Nov 15 and died a week later from "eclampsia postpartum" at South Highlands Hospital, Birmingham, AL. The child she bore, Davidson Coleman, died shortly after and is buried alongside her.

In the Spring of 1925, soon after her death, the Jefferson County Girl Scout council was able to purchase a 140 acre tract of land near Trussville, AL on which to develop a camp. Miss Winifred Collins writes that she received $300 of the $1000 down payment for Camp Coleman from George Gordon Crawford, nephew of Juliette Low, who was President of Tennessee Coal and Iron (TCI; Birmingham subsidiary of United States Steel.)

John Shields Coleman continued to support his wife's work, even after her death, by drawing up the papers to incorporate the Jefferson County Girl Scout Council. This was accomplished in order that the Camp Coleman land could be purchased by the newly incorporated organization.

In honor of Gertrude Coleman's service to the Girl Scouts, the council named its first camp property for her. Camp Gertrude D. Coleman was purchased in the Spring of 1925 and hosted its first camp session that summer. It is the oldest Girl Scout camp continually operating on its original site in the southeast, and the 3rd oldest operating on its original site in the United States.

Although she has no living descendants, the legacy of Gertrude D. Coleman lives on in the hearts of Girl Scouts as a symbol of friendship, loyalty, and the love of the outdoors. The Girl Scouts are committed to ensure that her memory, her life, and her legacy live on, in the generations of campers to come.

She was the beloved wife of John Shields Coleman 1894-1972. Mr. Coleman was born November 13, 1894, in Jasper, AL. His parents were E. W. and Nancy (Shields) Coleman. Mr Coleman was a lawyer, banker, and author of a book. He received his education at the University of Alabama, LL.B., 1915. He was admitted to the Alabama Bar in 1915. In 1937 he entered the banking business as president of Birmingham Trust National Bank, 1937-1958. He was Director of the Birmingham Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and served as president of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, 1941.

John Shields Coleman:
Married first – Gertrude Davidson Coleman July 7, 1921.
Married second - May Steiner, April 28, 1928.
Married third – Dorothy H. Morrow, July 14, 1970.

Alabama, Deaths and Burials Index, 1881-1974
about Gertrude Davidson Coleman
Name: Gertrude Davidson Coleman
Birth Date: 1887
Birth Place: California
Death Date: 22 Nov 1924
Death Place: Birmingham, Jefferson, Alabama
Burial Date: 24 Nov 1924
Burial Place: Elmwood
Death Age: 37
Occupation: House Wife
Race: White
Marital Status: Married
Gender: Female
Father Name: John Davidson
Father Birth Place: California
Mother Name: Elma S Davidson
Mother Birth Place: Cal.
Spouse Name: J L Coleman
FHL Film Number: 1908264

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  • Created by: On the Trail
  • Added: 4 Aug 2014
  • Find a Grave Memorial 133814418
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Gertrude Davidson Coleman (4 Aug 1887–22 Nov 1924), Find a Grave Memorial no. 133814418, citing Elmwood Cemetery, Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama, USA ; Maintained by On the Trail (contributor 47231429) .