Women’s rights activist, former Georgia state legislator Mary Jane Galer of Columbus dies
Women’s rights activist and former state legislator Mary Jane Galer has died.
Galer died Tuesday night at home in Columbus while suffering a brief illness, family friend Judy Tucker told the Ledger-Enquirer. She was 98.
The funeral, following a private interment, will be Feb. 15 at 3 p.m. in First Presbyterian Church, 1100 First Ave.
Elected in 1976 as Muscogee County’s second female representative in the state legislature, Galer served for 12 years in the Georgia House of Representatives. According to the Columbus State University archives, her legislative achievements include helping:
Georgia, Alabama and Florida agree on a water-sharing plan.
Revise guardianship laws for incapacitated adults.
Allow garnishment of pensions for alimony and child support.
Remove collaboration requirements in rape cases.
Improve child support enforcement laws to comply with federal guidelines.
“She was a champion for women and a trailblazer,” Tucker said. “She just had a vision for what was to be and just was diligent.”
Galer was the first woman to represent Columbus in the state legislature since Love Tolbert served one term from 1933-35, retired CSU history professor Virginia Causey told the L-E.
“She championed passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, which the Georgia House defeated in 1982,” Causey said. “When Mary Jane ran for re-election against Robert Steele in 1988, she learned that Steele, a pro-life candidate, had paid for his girlfriend’s abortion a few years earlier, but she refused to use that information against him, losing the election as a result. She was a selfless public servant, a politician driven by ethics and compassion who effectively worked across party lines for the good of Georgians.”
Causey, author of “Red Clay, White Water, and Blues: A History of Columbus, Georgia,” listed the following additional legislative achievements Galer helped accomplish in Georgia during her career:
Strengthened child pornography laws.
Leveled the playing field so that women in comparable jobs received the same pay as men.
Guaranteed grandparents’ visitation rights.
Eliminated the marriage tax.
Reimbursed teachers for tuition costs.
Born in Port Arthur Texas in 1924, Galer graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1945 with a bachelor’s degree in education. She earned a master’s degree in library science from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1947 while teaching.
Galer arrived in Columbus in 1960, when her husband, the late retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Robert Fulton Galer, was assigned to Fort Benning as inspector general. There, she worked on post as an Army librarian until joining the Columbus College staff in 1967.
At the college, Galer was an associate librarian and associate professor for 10 years. She chaired committees and took graduate-level political science classes.
Galer became library services director at the Fort Benning campus of Troy State University in 1986 and retired in 1994.
She authored or edited three books:
“Columbus, GA: Lists of People 1828-1852 and Sexton’s Reports to 1866”
“Historic Linwood Cemetery” with Linda Kennedy
“Dr. Azor and Gloriana Purdy Betts: Loyalists and Hearty Pioneers.”