Women in Elected Office

A recent issue of the Free Times, April 1-7, featured a fascinating article by Chris Trainor, titled “Women Are Few and Far Between in the South Carolina Legislature–And That’s a Problem.”  Trainor provides a number of statistics and stories showing South Carolina trailing most of the nation in the number of women in elected to office, despite our having elected Nikki Haley to our highest statewide office.  The General Assembly currently includes 22 female House members and only one female state senator.  That makes our legislature 13.5 percent female.  This is the fourth-lowest percentage in America.

 As I recounted in an earlier blog post, I was once asked why I was dedicating my life to documenting the work of fat, bald, old men.  I liked the question because it allowed me to draw attention to our many women’s collections and to highlight the wonderful records documenting women’s issues and the lives of women in our largest collections–our congressional holdings.  This article made me use my feeble math skills to ascertain what percentage of our collections were generated by women.

Clara McMillan, center, with Mr. and Mrs. James F. Byrnes, c. 1960.

Clara McMillan, center, with Mr. and Mrs. James F. Byrnes, c. 1960.

I came up with 27 out of 122, or 22.13%.  If we were a state legislature, we would rank below 29 states.  The 122 figure counts some collections twice.  I needed to do this because we have several collections of married couples.  For instance, we have one collection for the papers of Thomas and Clara McMillan.  Both served in Congress; Mrs. McMillan was appointed to her husband’s seat after his death.

The result was not as satisfying as I had assumed it would be.  My gut told me we’d be around 30%.  Still, we are doing better than South Carolina itself.

 –Contributed by Herb Hartsook

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