South Carolina Women
Their Lives and Times

Edited by Marjorie Julian Spruill, Valinda W. Littlefield, and Joan Marie Johnson
Volume 3

The third and final volume of essays portraying South Carolina women in the rich context of the state's long and fascinating history


“While the stories of towering figures like Septima Clark and Jean Hoefer Toal will ring familiar, most of this volume reveals women working in schools, farms, factories, and an astonishing array of voluntary associations to improve education and health, challenge racial discrimination, and open opportunities for women. South Carolina is a better place because of their unsung efforts, and their compelling stories challenge us to reframe our understanding of the twentieth century. This much needed book opens that possibility.”
—Sara Evans, author of Born for Liberty: A History of Women in America

"These wonderfully diverse stories of the lives and works of South Carolina women will instruct, surprise, and inspire readers of all kinds. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand our common past."
—Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, Julia Cherry Spruill Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"My hat is off to the editors and authors of South Carolina Women. They have done an enormous service to anyone who is interested in South Carolina history, women's history, and southern history. . . This book is an excellent resource for scholars and students of southern and South Carolina history and politics, American studies, African-American studies, and women's studies."
—Karen M. Kedrowski, Journal of Southern Religion

“The essays in this book individually and collectively bring to life a long history of female activism and agency and make a valuable contribution to the narrative of southern women’s efforts to shape the world around them. Volume 3 of South Carolina Women proves that these notable and exceptional female figures, rather than stand passively on the sidelines, claimed a space in the canon of American history by tirelessly constructing a better world for generations of women in the state and the nation.”
—Victoria E. Ott, Journal of Southern History

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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.

Southern Women: Their Lives and Times

Page count: 472 pp.
22 b&w 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 associate professor of history and director of the African American Studies Program at the University of South Carolina. Joan Marie Johnson is a lecturer in women's and southern history at Northeastern Illinois University. Together they have edited volumes 1 and 2 of South Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times (Georgia).