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South Carolina Women

Their Lives and Times

Marjorie Julian Spruill

Publication Year: 2012

Covering an era from the early twentieth century to the present, this volume features twenty-seven South Carolina women of varied backgrounds whose stories reflect the ever-widening array of activities and occupations in which women were engaged in a transformative era that included depression, world wars, and dramatic changes in the role of women. Some striking revelations emerge from these biographical portraits—in particular, the breadth of interracial cooperation between women in the decades preceding the civil rights movement and ways that women carved out diverse career opportunities, sometimes by breaking down formidable occupational barriers. Some women in the volume proceeded cautiously, working within the norms of their day to promote reform even as traditional ideas about race and gender held powerful sway. Others spoke out more directly and forcefully and demanded change.

Most of the women featured in these essays were leaders within their respective communities and the state. Many of them, such as Wil Lou Gray, Hilla Sheriff, and Ruby Forsythe, dedicated themselves to improving the quality of education and health care for South Carolinians. Septima Clark, Alice Spearman Wright, Modjeska Simkins, and many others sought to improve conditions and obtain social justice for African Americans. Others, including Victoria Eslinger and Tootsie Holland, were devoted to the cause of women's rights. Louise Smith, Mary Elizabeth Massey, and Mary Blackwell Butler entered traditionally male-dominated fields, while Polly Woodham and Mary Jane Manigault created their own small businesses. A few, including Mary Gordon Ellis, Dolly Hamby, and Harriet Keyserling exercised political influence. Familiar figures like Jean Toal, current chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, are included, but readers also learn about lesser-known women such as Julia and Alice Delk, sisters employed in the Charleston Naval Yard during World War II.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Southern Women: Their Lives and Times

Cover, Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xviii

The three volumes of South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times highlight the long and fascinating history of the women of the Palmetto State, women whose stories have oft en been told as well as women whose lives warrant far more attention...

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pp. xix-xx

No book, but especially no three- volume anthology like this, is possible without a great deal of support. We would like to thank several people who were particularly helpful in selecting the subjects and essayists, including Walter Edgar, director of the Institute...

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pp. 1-16

The period from 1920, when women won the right to vote, to the end of the twentieth century was a transformative era for women in American society. Dramatic events, including a major depression and a second world war, ushered in important social...

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Ruby Forsythe and Fannie Phelps Adams: Teaching for Confrontation during Jim Crow

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pp. 17-34

African American children growing up in the Jim Crow South encountered white supremacist messages of black inferiority as they crowded into inadequate school buildings and read from secondhand books. But despite these gross inequalities, on a daily basis...

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Mary Gordon Ellis: The Politics of Race and Gender from Schoolhouse to Statehouse

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pp. 35-57

In March 1995, more than sixty years after their mother’s life was cut short by cancer, Mary Gordon Ellis’s three children joined with members of the South Carolina Senate to honor the memory of the state’s first woman senator. A controversial figure...

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Julia Mood Peterkin and Wil Lou Gray: The Art and Science of Race Progress

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pp. 58-77

Though using two very different mediums—literature and social science—two white South Carolina women, Julia Mood Peterkin (1880– 1961) and Wil Lou Gray (1883– 1984), challenged regional conceptions of race through nationally recognized...

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Dr. Hilla Sheriff: Caught between Science and the State at the South Carolina Midwife Training Institutes

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pp. 78-94

Committed to “scientific” models of modern childbirth but restricted by inequities that denied almost half of South Carolina mothers access to hospitals or physicians, black and white medical women created an alternative form of maternal and infant...

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Julia and Alice Delk: From Rural Life to Welding at the Charleston Navy Yard in World War II

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pp. 95-114

During World War II, two sisters from South Carolina, Julia and Alice Delk, were among the thousands of women who transformed the traditionally male world of the Charleston Navy Yard (CNY) “for the duration.” At its peak employment period in 1943...

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Louise Smith: The First Lady of Racing

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pp. 115-134

In its early days, stock car racing was a disorganized and poorly funded sport featuring hard- drinking, hard- driving men who came from the ranks of moonshine runners, farmers, mechanics, and factory workers. In December 1947 Bill France Sr., a race promoter...

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Mary Blackwell Baker: Her Quiet Campaign for Labor Justice

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pp. 135-153

The events that young Mary Ursula Blackwell (1921– 95) lived through with her family and in her community in October and November 1933 during the first big textile strike of the New Deal impressed her deeply and propelled her choices in life and work...

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Susan Dart Butler and Ethel Martin Bolden: South Carolina’s Pioneer African American Librarians

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pp. 154-178

South Carolina’s pioneer librarians Susan Dart Butler (1888– 1959) and Ethel Bolden (1918– 2002) were crucial to the formation of public branches and school libraries for African Americans in South Carolina during the height of Jim Crow segregation as well...

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Harriet Simons: Women, Race, Politics, and the League of Women Voters of South Carolina

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pp. 179-199

Harriet Porcher Stoney Simons (1896– 1971) of Charleston was a key figure in the development of the League of Women Voters (LWV) in South Carolina aft er World War II. A white woman from an elite background and a moderately progressive leader...

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Alice Buck Norwood Spearman Wright: A Civil Rights Activist

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pp. 200-220

Alice Buck Norwood Spearman Wright (1902– 89), executive director of the biracial South Carolina Council on Human Relations (SCCHR) from 1954 to 1967, was one of the few white women in her state deeply committed to advancing civil rights for African Americans...

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Modjeska Monteith Simkins: I Cannot Be Bought and Will Not Be Sold

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pp. 221-239

Mary Modjeska Monteith Simkins (1889– 1992) was a leader, an activist, and a visionary. She was part of a cadre of African American leaders in South Carolina in the twentieth century who called the state to task as they pursued civil and political...

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Septima Poinsette Clark: The Evolution of an Educational Stateswoman

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pp. 240-261

Septima Clark (1898– 1987) is most frequently remembered for her role in developing the Citizenship Schools, an adult education program that began on Johns Island, South Carolina, in 1957 and spread throughout the South after the Southern Christian Leadership...

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Mary Elizabeth Massey: A Founder of Women’s History in the South

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pp. 262-286

When Mary Elizabeth Massey (1915– 1974) arrived at the Rock Hill bus station one late summer day in 1950 to begin a long teaching career at Winthrop College, “the South Carolina State College for Women,” administrators could not know that they had invited...

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Polly Woodham: The Many Roles of Rural Women

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pp. 287-306

If you ask Polly Hill Woodham (1930– ) to describe how she spent her adult years, she says she was a farmwife. Yet an outsider listening to Polly’s oral history account might think her involvement in the farm seemed minimal. She was not born to farm life...

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Mary Jane Manigault: A Basket Maker’s Legacy

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pp. 307-321

Since its arrival in the Carolina Lowcountry in the late seventeenth century, coiled basketry has evolved from its humble origins as an implement of rice processing introduced by African agriculturalists to an American art known throughout the world...

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Dolly Hamby: The Rise of Two-Party Politics in South Carolina

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pp. 322-345

When Lottie “Dolly” Hamby (1918– 2001) was born, South Carolina was an agrarian state with a political system dominated by rural elites. Democratic primaries were the only competitive elections and restrictive voting laws limited political participation...

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Harriet Keyserling: Political Trailblazer

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pp. 346-372

Harriet Hirschfeld Keyserling (1922– 2010) entered politics in 1974 at the age of fifty- two when rural South Carolina was beginning to off er more opportunities to women. Keyserling’s life experiences reflect this trend and reveal the transformation...

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Victoria Eslinger, Keller Bumgardner Barron, Mary Heriot, Tootsie Holland, and Pat Callair: Champions of Women’s Rights in South Carolina

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pp. 373-408

The modern women’s rights movement that began in the 1960s had a tremendous effect on American society. In South Carolina, where traditional views concerning women and their role in society were deeply ingrained, many people were suspicious...

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Jean Hoefer Toal: The Rise of Women in the Legal Profession

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pp. 409-433

On January 28, 1988, an “it’s a girl” sign appeared on one of the ornate granite columns of the Supreme Court building in Columbia, South Carolina. The banner, festooned with pink ribbon, announced the arrival of the first woman on the Supreme Court...

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 435-440


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pp. 441-459

E-ISBN-13: 9780820343815
E-ISBN-10: 0820343811
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820342146
Print-ISBN-10: 0820342149

Page Count: 488
Illustrations: 22 b&w photos, 1 map
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: Volume 3
Series Title: Southern Women: Their Lives and Times