South Carolina Women
Their Lives and Times

Edited by Marjorie Julian Spruill, Valinda W. Littlefield, and Joan Marie Johnson
Volume 2

Life-and-times histories of women from South Carolina


"South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times—Volume 2 makes a significant contribution to the body of knowledge about women's lives and work in a quintessentially southern state. Each of the women in this volume is well deserving of study, and together they flesh out a story that scholars have only begun to appreciate piecemeal. Collectively, they present a portrait of energetic and determined women, black and white, who saw needs and injustices in their world and took the responsibility upon themselves to meet those needs and try to right those injustices. Because most of the work on the evolution of women's political and social associations, their work for suffrage, and their impact on women's education and health needs has been focused on the northeastern and New England states, the essays in this volume, focused on black and white southern women, provide a significant addition to this emerging field."
—Elisabeth Muhlenfeld, President, Sweet Briar College

"South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times—Volume 2 brings together distinguished historians who vividly recapture representative black and white South Carolina women. The articles are lively and the editors ground them in deep historical context that belies any notion of a stagnant state from Reconstruction to World War II. Read any one of these and you will want to read all."
—Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History, Yale University

"While the experiences of the women featured in South Carolina Women range widely in time and circumstance, the essays collectively testify to the power of patriarchy and slaveholding to construct social and gender norms and the pervasiveness of tragedy and hardship in the lives of South Carolina women . . . Anyone interested in further contextualizing southern and women's history will find valuable insights and analysis in each essay."

"Charting women’s social activism from the Civil Wars years until the eve of World War II, the compelling essays in South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times—Volume 2, are long overdue. The women profiled in these pages were involved in concerns as diverse as freedmen’s education and woman suffrage, historic preservation and medical care. Through their initiatives, they transformed South Carolina and, at the same time, did much to expand the opportunities and possibilities for the women who came after them."
—Bernard E. Powers Jr., author of Black Charlestonians: A Social History, 1822-1885

"Offers fourteen thoughtful articles on South Carolina women of significance who made diverse contributions to the state, region, and nation during the era bounded by the 1860s and the 1930s."
Journal of American History

"The fourteen essays in South Carolina Women, Volume 2, examine various black and white women who played critical roles in reshaping the economic, social, and political landscape of post-Civil War South Carolina. Together the essays suggest that whether these women embraced traditional Victorian concepts of womanhood or broke with those conventions to claim power as 'New Women,' they all secured power for themselves as they helped create a new society."
—Megan Taylor Shockley, Journal of Southern History

"This series has done much since its inception to focus attention on the lives of important, but sometimes little-known, women and their impact on southern history. It also has gone a long way in correcting the historiographical bias of women's historians who have been preoccupied with other areas of the United States. The second installment of what will be three volumes on South Carolina women fulfills this objective admirably."
—Anne E. Marshall, The South Carolina Historical Magazine

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The biographical essays in this volume provide new insights into the various ways that South Carolina women asserted themselves in their state and illuminate the tension between tradition and change that defined the South from the Civil War through the Progressive Era. As old rules—including gender conventions that severely constrained southern women—were dramatically bent if not broken, these women carved out new roles for themselves and others.

The volume begins with a profile of Laura Towne and Ellen Murray, who founded the Penn School on St. Helena Island for former slaves. Subsequent essays look at such women as the five Rollin sisters, members of a prominent black family who became passionate advocates for women’s rights during Reconstruction; writer Josephine Pinckney, who helped preserve African American spirituals and explored conflicts between the New and Old South in her essays and novels; and Dr. Matilda Evans, the first African American woman licensed to practice medicine in the state. Intractable racial attitudes often caused women to follow separate but parallel paths, as with Louisa B. Poppenheim and Marion B. Wilkinson. Poppenheim, who was white, and Wilkinson, who was black, were both driving forces in the women’s club movement. Both saw clubs as a way not only to help women and children but also to showcase these positive changes to the wider nation. Yet the two women worked separately, as did the white and black state federations of women’s clubs.

Often mixing deference with daring, these women helped shape their society through such avenues as education, religion, politics, community organizing, history, the arts, science, and medicine. Women in the mid- and late twentieth century would build on their accomplishments.

Southern Women: Their Lives and Times

Page count: 336 pp.
19 b&w and 7 color photos, 1 map
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Marjorie Julian Spruill is a professor of history at the University of South Carolina. Valinda W. Littlefield is an assistant professor of history at the University of South Carolina. Joan Marie Johnson is a lecturer at Northeastern Illinois University.