“Well, you can’t refuse a Sister” — Sister Mary Anthony Monahan, Fritz Hollings, and Hunger in South Carolina

One of the great joys in working at the Libraries is the friendships we develop with Library supporters — people who care about history and value what we do.  Our friends support us with their time, money and energy.  One key role they play is in scouting out materials which build on our collections.

Ms. Charline Brandt of Columbia is one such friend and recently we received a real treasure from her — material relating to Sister Mary Anthony Monahan of the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy and head of the Home for Children and Neighborhood House of Charleston.  Sister Anthony is particularly important to SCPC because Fritz Hollings credits her for leading him to his investigation of hunger in the late 1960s.  Ms. Brandt donated a copy of Sister Anthony’s 1963 dissertation, Our Lady of Mercy Welfare Center: The Story of a Neighborhood House, and a scrapbook Ms. Brandt kept on Sister Anthony.

In an oral history with SCPC, reflecting on his close relationship with Sister Anthony, the Senator reflected about her visit when she introduced him to the problem of hunger in South Carolina — “She said, ‘No, you don’t understand it.  I want you to come with me.  Come with me.’  Well, you can’t refuse a Sister.  You can be a big shot and busy, but you can’t be that big and that busy.  I said, ‘Yes, ma’am.’  We got in the car, and we went up around what we called the Mall.”  There, Sister Anthony opened Hollings’ eyes to the plight of South Carolina’s poor.

hunger tour

Senator Fritz Hollings is dismayed by what he sees during his "Hunger Tour" of South Carolina.

He eventually wrote a book, The Case Against Hunger, which opened the eyes of the world to the problem of hunger in America.  ‘I began to understand some of the things Sister Anthony had been trying to tell me — that hunger was real, and it existed in hundreds of humans in my own home city.  I saw what all America needs to see.  The hungry are not able-bodied men, sitting around drunk and lazy on welfare.  They are children.  They are abandoned women, or the crippled, or the aged.  They are that part of America for whom civil rights or first class citizenship is not a part of their wildest dreams.”  

The original materials have been placed at the South Caroliniana Library.  Copies have been placed in a Vertical File at SCPC under Sister Anthony’s name.  Truly, we stand on the shoulders of so many friends helping us develop our collections and programs.  We thank Ms. Brandt for these wonderful materials documenting the life of a lady Senator Hollings has described as a “saint.”

Contributed by Herb Hartsook

 

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