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Marie Foster

Marie Foster (1917 - 2003)

Dental nurse and civil rights leader, USA.

Marie Priscilla Martin Foster was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. during the 1960s and a dental nurse. She was instrumental in helping to register many African-American voters in Selma, Alabama, and was one of the primary local organizers of the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. She was called "the mother of the voting rights movement" and was nicknamed Mother Foster. She was born as Marie Martin in 1917 in Wilcox County, Alabama USA. 

When young, Foster's mother took her to Selma to get an education against Foster's father's wishes. Foster did not initially complete high school, but instead dropped out, married, and raised three children. After her husband's early death, Foster worked low-wage jobs but eventually completed high school, went to a junior college, and became a dental nurse.

Foster became interested in the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s because she felt "the race relations were so bad in Selma". She was part of the revival of the Dallas County Voters League, a group of African Americans that pushed for improvements in the system for voter registration and belonged to its eight-member steering committee, known as the "Courageous Eight".

She tried to register to vote eight times before succeeding.Following her successful registration, Foster began teaching other African Americans how to pass the tests used to bar them. One person showed up to her first class, in which she taught the 70-year-old man how to write his own name. Gradually, the classes drew more and more people.

As the Civil Rights Movement grew, Foster became an organizer for the Dallas County area. She participated in the march on March 7, 1965, that became known as Bloody Sunday. As the march approached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a combined state trooper and police force stopped the march, violently beating many of the participants. Foster was at the front of one of the lines along with Amelia Boynton, and was clubbed by a state trooper, leaving her with swollen knees. Despite her injuries, two weeks later Foster participated in the march that eventually made it all the way to Montgomery, Alabama, successfully walking fifty miles over five days. She was one of the two women to complete it.

Martin Luther King, Jr. learned that Lyndon B. Johnson would sign the Voting Rights Act when he was at Foster's house. He is said to have cried at the news while with Foster.

After the Voting Rights Act was passed, Foster continued to work as a dental nurse. In 1984, Foster worked on Rev. Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign. In her free time, she taught children how to read. She carried on campaigning, fighting for public housing of the poor in Selma, conduct of white bus drivers or asking for the statue of the Klan founder to be taken away from a public park. She helped to found the National Voting Rights Museum and Institute. She fought many mayoral elections to replace the mayor of Selma Joseph Smitherman who was in office during the Selma to Montgomery marches.

She died on September 6, 2003. She is buried at Serenity Memorial Gardens in Selma, Alabama.

Foster was posthumously named an honoree by the (USA) National Women's History Alliance in 2020.

Text source: Wikipedia
Photo source:National Voting Rights Museum, Selma USA, 

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