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1 Introduction Marjorie Julian Spruill, Valinda W. Littlefield, and Joan Marie Johnson • • • 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, economic, and political changes. In addition, through the civil rights movement and the women’s rights movement, numerous Americans demanded and won still more changes, including significant reforms that created new opportunities for women. All of these developments had a significant impact on the lives and times of the South Carolina women profiled in this volume. Volume 3 presents the stories of a diverse group of South Carolina women, black and white, from elite as well as humble origins. The women also represent a variety of religious backgrounds and political persuasions—liberal, moderate, and conservative—and the ever-widening array of activities and occupations in which twentieth-century South Carolina women were engaged. Their stories reflect many important developments in the history of their state, including remarkable changes that the women portrayed in these essays helped to bring about such as improvements in educational opportunities and living conditions for South Carolinians, long-overdue changes in race relations, and enhancement of the status of women, who found new opportunities for employment and participation in politics and government. Progress came slowly and gradually and was dearly bought: in the period from 1920 to 2000, long-held assumptions about race and class and gender that 2 spruill, littlefield, and johnson shaped the lives of South Carolinians in the past continued to have a strong hold. Often, and not by coincidence, the most powerful people in the state were also those most hostile to change. As in the past, South Carolina women promoting reform, whether on behalf of others or for themselves, had to proceed carefully to convince or compel others to make changes. Looking back from the vantage point of today their actions at times appear cautious and measured. However, they were working within a social and political climate in which demanding more drastic changes could well have cost them their positions and thus the ability to bring about any change at all. The South Carolina women discussed in this volume had far more opportunities for education than those whose stories appeared in the first two volumes . Some came from families that could easily afford to send their daughters to college. Others managed to become educated against great odds. Many received undergraduate degrees from colleges near home in South Carolina or other southern states. Some followed their undergraduate studies with graduate or professional studies, earning advanced degrees, including the jd, ma, mls, msw, md, and the PhD. African American women often had to attend graduate school out of state. Although the University of South Carolina had briefly admitted black students during Reconstruction, it did not admit African Americans from 1880 until 1963. Armed with academic credentials, women increasingly began to enter professions in which they had been underrepresented for decades. Like the women in volumes 1 and 2, the women appearing in volume 3 of South Carolina Women faced obstacles resulting from traditional ideas about gender. The traditional assumption that women belonged mainly in the domestic sphere was challenged but remained strong throughout most of the twentieth century, and the women who joined the labor force, especially those who entered careers unusual for women or ventured into the political arena, benefited greatly from the support of family and friends. Strong friendships with other women and supportive husbands were often vital elements of their success. The controversial nature of their activism led some of these women to have strained relations with family members or to lose friends. Whenever possible these women promoted change without provoking controversy . They were well aware that they were operating within a social system with well-defined and traditional expectations about women’s conduct and appearance . From the state’s first woman senator, who in the 1920s insisted on wearing a hat in the legislature (where, in keeping with southern male traditions , men were prohibited from wearing them), to the advocates of the Equal Rights Amendment (era), who in the 1970s were adamant that women lob- Introduction 3 bying legislators wear dresses or skirts, the South Carolina women discussed in this volume believed it to be important to remain “ladylike” even as they redefined gender roles. And they did indeed bring about important changes. Some of...


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