“A Woman’s Work is Never Done: Women in Government and Politics” is the latest exhibit installed in the east gallery of Thomas Cooper Library (between Circulation and the Mac Lab) in honor of women’s history month. Providing visitors with a brief glimpse at the lives of several influential women whose collections reside at SCPC, this month long exhibit recognizes the tremendous role of women in South Carolina politics. While there are many collections at SCPC, I selected the following nine because I believe their commitment to equality, education, and dedication to the public is empowering.
Distinguished historian Betty Glad and the brilliant public relations specialist Lottie “Dolly” Hamby are present (keep an eye out for an exhibit later this spring about the “Mad Men” world featuring Hamby). Photo and clippings illustrate the roles of Barbara Moxon and Mary Kelly, the mover and shakers in women’s rights and the environment, as well as Ann “Tunky” Riley, an advocate for educational policy. In addition, you will find Modjeska Simkins, the woman who would “fight for anybody who is suffering,” and politicians Harriet Keyserling, Elizabeth Gasque, and Clara McMillan in the exhibit for their strong character and devotion to improving the lives of women.
While researching for this exhibit, I discovered an interesting connection between Elizabeth Gasque (see the Allard Henry Gasque collection) and Clara McMillan, the two women who hold the distinction of being the first from South Carolina elected to Congress. Not only did Gasque lived to be 103 years old but she also served from September 1938 until January 1939 until Mr. Gasque’s secretary, John Lanneau McMillan (1902-1979) replaced Elizabeth Gasque in the next election. He shares his last name (disappointingly, there is no relation) with Clara McMillan, who was the first woman to actively participate in a congressional session from November 1939 to January 1941.
Whether through academia, public relations or legislation, we commemorate these women for their tremendous influences on women’s roles, South Carolina, and politics. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to learn more about these pioneers, advocates, and defenders of women in South Carolina, and would like to thank Virginia Blake for assisting in the installation of the exhibit.
–contributed by Katharine Klein