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Martha Monteith Papers

Identifier: SCU-SCPC-MEM

The collection consists of about .75 linear foot of material, 1938 to 2017, with the following topics having more than one folder: General; American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Fellowship, 1982-1986; "Negro Speech Correction Program in Public Schools"; Photographs; and Clippings.

Mrs. Monteith’s papers include documents covering the creation and implementation of the Speech Pathology program in Richland County District One and correspondence with Richland County administrators. There is also a collection of SCSHA’s “In Touch” newsletter, 2006 to 2010, several items detailing Mrs. Monteith’s work and accomplishments, undated handwritten notes, and other material from previous school committee and association work. The collection also includes several documents that Mrs. Monteith used as part of the advisory committee for the creation of the Monteith School Cultural Center. The photographs series includes several portraits of Mrs. Monteith and unidentified family and friends. Parts of the collection have been digitized and can be found under the Digital Materials section of the finding aid.


  • 1938 - 2019



Copyright Not Evaluated. For further information please contact University of South Carolina. South Carolina Political Collections, Columbia, SC 29208.


Library Use Only


.75 Linear Feet


Martha Cunningham Monteith was the first trained speech therapist employed by the South Carolina public school system, establishing the inaugural program at Richland County District 1 in 1949. She worked to secure state funding for speech and hearing services throughout SC public schools. While teaching at South Carolina State University (c. 1954-1962), she helped estabish its department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, and in 1966 helped launch a Speech Pathology and Audiology graduate program at the University of South Carolina. Throughout her career, Mrs. Monteith was dedicated to helping children with speech impediments. She also worked (1945-1980) to promote the many services offered by the Victory Savings Bank during its leadership by her husband, Dr. Henry D. Monteith.

Biographical Note

Martha Elizabeth Cunningham Monteith dedicated her career to helping children with speech impediments and blazing a path for speech pathology programs in South Carolina's public education system. Mrs. Monteith was born May 26, 1921 to Fanny Gilliam and the Reverend Dr. Bennie C. Cunningham, Sr. She grew up in Winnsboro, S.C. with her younger brother, Bennie Cunningham, Jr. The children attended the Fairfield County Training School. Both went on to attend Allen University in Columbia where Mrs. Monteith participated in many activities on campus, including the French and Dramatic clubs, Student Government, and contributed to the university newspaper The Allen Journal, as the society editor. She graduated Cum Laude, in 1942, with a Bachelor's degree in English and a minor in Elementary Education.

After graduating, Mrs. Monteith taught seventh grade social studies at Columbia's Carver School for one year, then taught third grade for about six years. At the same time, she began graduate school at Howard University in Washington D.C., attending speech therapy classes over the summer. In 1949, following a series of transfers to four different universities, Mrs. Monteith received a Master of Arts degree in Speech Pathology from Western Reserve University, now Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Having receieved her MA, Mrs. Monteith returned to Columbia as the first trained speech therapist employed by the S.C. public school system. She then esablished the first speech program in any public school in South Carolina, for Richland County School District 1. The program started at Waverly Elementary and Booker T. Washington High Schools. It continued for forty-five years, encompassing the entirety of her tenure serving the District. Mrs. Monteith worked with lobbyists to secure state funding for speech and hearing services in the public schools of South Carolina, a landmark accomplishment for her profession.

Mrs. Monteith taught at South Carolina State University (SCSU) from 1954 to 1959 and 1961 to 1962. Concurrently, she assisted SCSU in establishing a department in Speech Pathology and Audiology. While teaching at SCSU she also taught reading in Allen University's summer school. In 1966, as a member of the Curricula Committee at the University of South Carolina, she supported a proposition that would establish the graduate program in Speech Pathology and Audiology. In 1975, she joined the program's advisory board.

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 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 the Modjeska Monteith Simkins home and the Monteith School, work that she undertook with partners at the Historic Columbia Foundation, the Eau Claire Community Council, and the Booker T. Washington Foundation. Both sites have been placed on the National Historic Registry.

Mrs. Monteith was also active in professional organizations including the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and the South Carolina Education Association of College Women. She participated as an early member of the, now South Carolina Speech-Language-Hearing Association (SCSHA) and served as president of the Women's Auxiliary to the Palmetto Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association, alongside her husband, Dr. Henry D. Monteith. In 1975, she represented ASHA at a conference in Moscow where she reportedly sang "God Bless America" in the lobby of the Leningrad Hotel in St. Petersburg.

Mrs. Monteith married Dr. Henry D. Monteith, a well-known physician, banker, and community leader. From 1945 to 1980, Dr. Monteith was president of the Victory Savings Bank, the first African-American owned bank in South Carolina. His sister, Modjeska Simkins, was one of the founding members of the bank. Both Mrs. Monteith and Mrs. Simkins assisted with various aspects of the banks operations. Throughout their marriage, Mrs. Monteith actively participated in much of her husband's work, helping him during nightly home visits as a physician, promoting the many services offered by the Victory Savings Bank within the community, and serving with him on the board for the Palmetto Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association.

In 1987, Mrs. Monteith retired as the South Carolina District One coordinator of Speech Pathology. In retirement, she has travelled the world with her niece, Dr. Henrie Monteith Treadwell, visiting places such as Egypt, Germany, Holland, Isreal, and Zimbabwe. In 2008, Mrs. Monteith received the "Honors of the Association" award from ASHA, its highest honor, in recognition of her leadership and service. As a climax to a long and fruitful career, Mrs. Monteith was inducted into the Richland County School District 1 Hall of Fame in 2013.

Mrs. Monteith passed away on July 27, 2019.


Donated by Martha Cunningham Monteith

Processing Information

Processed in 2016 by Chauna Carr; additions, 2019, by Chauna Carr; additions, 2021, by Ann Abney.

Repository Details

Part of the South Carolina Political Collections Repository

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA

Martha Monteith Papers
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