sc suffragists

www.lwv.org

In February of 1920, just six months before the 19th amendment was ratified, the League of Women Voters was founded by Suffragists of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in Chicago, Illinios. The nonpartisan organization has been referred to as a "mighty political experiment," designed to help 20 million women carry out their new responsibilities as voters.

African American women and men carry signs calling for equal rights in 1963 more than 40 years after the 19th ammendent was passed giving women the right to vote.  But that right did not extend to all women or men.
Library of Congress

The 19th amendment promised women the right to vote would not be denied because of gender.  But it was an empty promise for women with dark skin.

"It's an historical legacy that can't be ignored because it's inconvenient," says Sandra Slater.  She's an associate history professor at the College of Charleston and the director of the school's Carolina Lowcountry and Atlantic World Program.

Slater has been talking a lot about the suffragist movement this year as part of the centennial celebration of the passage of the 19th amendment.

Christensen family Portrait, Abbie 3rd from right
The Christensen family

Anne Christensen Pollitzer lives at the end of a dirt road on Saint Helena Island.  The view from her back porch is as stunning as her story.

White egrets wade along the marsh as Anne unfolds two large, cardboard displays beside her, spreading them out like wings.  Each is filled with old photographs.

The retired schoolteacher is prepared to talk about her great-great grandmother Abbie Holmes Christensen, a celebrated suffragist, folklorist and educator.

Charleston Suffragist Helped Save Historic Architecture

Aug 25, 2020

Susan Pringle Frost was born to a prominent Charleston family and seemed destined for a life of leisure until her father's fertilizer business fell apart after the Civil War.  She left boarding school to help her family, first by working as a secretary for an architect and then as a stenographer for the U.S. District Court.

"It seems presumptuous to say I understand Miss Sue, but I sort of get some things about her and I just admire her deeply," says Betsy Kirkland Cahill.

The Pollitzer house 5 Pitt Street Charleston, SC
Victoria Hansen/ SC Public Radio

A pale, pink home with contrasting, black shutters sits along 5 Pitt Street in Charleston.  Its window boxes overflow with colorful flowers, vibrant like the women who once lived there.  An historical marker tells their story.

"Hello, we are the Pollitzer sisters," the recording says.  "Carrie, Mabel and Anita."

It goes on to describe how the sisters grew up in Charleston during the end of the 19th century when women had no voice, no vote and no equal rights.  But that didn't stop them.

Emily Anderson Dunovantfield lived in Edgefield, South Carolina. She was well-educated and what many called a traditional woman. But during the early 1900's, Dunovant used a radical voice to help elevate the women's suffrage cause in South Carolina. 

Eulalie Salley pictured second from right, with then governor of South Carolina Ronald McNair, as he signed the 19th Amendment in 1969 .Source: https://sohp.org
Image courtesy of the Edgewood Project.

Eulalie was born in Georgia on December 11, 1883. She grew up on a plantation near Augusta, was privately educated and attended both, Virginia's Mary Baldwin College and Converse College in Spartanburg, SC. In 1906, she married attorney Julian Salley (later mayor of Aiken) and together they had two children. But it was the court case of another woman's fight to regain custody of her own children that prompted Salley to join the fight for suffrage.

The Seneca Falls Convention was the first women's rights convention. Held in the Wesleyan Chapel of the town of Seneca Falls, New York, it spanned two days over July 19 - 20, 1848.
Kenneth C. Zirkel [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia

The women’s suffrage movement was a decades-long fight that most historians place starting with the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. But there are some who place the nearly 100-year struggle starting, in earnest, decades before the civil war with the proliferation of reform groups like temperance leagues, religious movements and antislavery organizations.

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

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.

Suffragists demonstrating against Woodrow Wilson in Chicago, 1916.
Library of Congress, Records of the National Woman's Party https://www.loc.gov/resource/mnwp.276016

On May 21, 1919, the US House of Representatives passed the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing American women the right to vote. Two weeks later, the Senate followed. The amendment was ratified and adopted, one year later on August 18, 1920. Getting to this historic moment took an almost century- long effort of lecturing, writing, marching, lobbying, and practicing civil disobedience for many women and their allies.