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At This Intersection in Downtown Columbia, The Rollin Sisters Fought For the Vote

Views from Sumter and Senate streets in Downtown Columbia
Thelisha Eaddy/ SC Public Radio
Views from Sumter and Senate streets in Downtown Columbia

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, South Carolina Public Radio and South Carolina ETV are broadcasting the series Sisterhood: South Carolina Suffragists. The series looks at how local women played  roles in a national movement that eventually guaranteed more than 26 million women the right to vote.

The East side of the Statehouse House grounds, an historic church and the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission sit at the corner of Sumter and Senate streets in downtown Columbia. These sites and buildings can represent a cross-section of state history that, if examined closely, can tell a story of generational efforts to eliminate discrimination and create a more perfect union.

During Reconstruction, the Rollin sisters used their education, political and social influence to help shape state and national history. They were known as some of the most influential Black women to have lived during the time, despite their inability to vote or hold office. But what they did hold, was the ability to gather those who could vote and hold office to a house now believed to have been located across the street from the Statehouse. There, these early suffragists worked to get women the right to vote.

In this episode of Sisterhood: South Carolina Suffragists, Katherine Allen, Director of research at Historic Columbia and Dr. Valinda Littlefield, Associate Professor of History at the University of South Carolina share how these women created an inclusive, interacial political hot spot at the corner of Sumter and Senate streets and how this "salon" shaped not only politics during Reconstruction but also laid some of the bricks to the road leading to the the passage of the 19th Amendment.