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“F” is for Female Benevolent Societies

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“F” is for Female benevolent societies. Female benevolent societies rose to prominence in South Carolina and the nation in the years between the American Revolution and the Civil War. Among the best-known and most active female benevolent society in antebellum South Carolina was the Ladies Benevolent Society of Charleston. Founded in 1813, the society initially provided home health care to the sick and poor of the city in response to the War of 1812. Careful not to become an auxiliary to a men’s organization, the members controlled their own finances, as is evident in their charter stating that the treasurer had to be an unmarried woman. Female benevolent societies and later, women’s associations, compiled valuable skills that would prepare women for a full and active political life, culminating with the winning of women’s suffrage in 1920.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.