International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. According to the IWD timeline, it initially began in New York City as National Women’s Day in February 1908. Gradually, more countries began honoring the day and by 1914 IWD was observed globally. It was celebrated by the United Nations for the first time in 1975.

Recognizing women is especially important in archives because they have been historically underrepresented. We all know the saying that “behind every great man is a great woman.” Although many justifiably argue that the expression should be changed to “beside” or “in front of,” Workman was no exception to this adage. In honor of International Women’s Day, it is fitting to acknowledge the incredible women in William D. Workman, Jr.’s life: his mother, Vivian Virginia Watkins Workman, his wife, Heber Rhea Thomas Workman, and his daughter, Dorrill “Dee” Workman Benedict.

Workman’s travels with his family served as an excellent opportunity to capture South Carolina in his time. Throughout his collection, landscapes and monuments are sometimes captured as a backdrop for one of his loved ones. Two examples include photographs of his wife at Caesars Head State Park in 1947 and his daughter standing in front of Clark’s Hill Dam [now the J. Strom Thurmond Dam] in 1952 during its construction.

Vivian Watkins Workman, July 22, 1942

Workman’s collection includes several photographs of his mother, her family, and their home dating from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. According to her obituary in The State, she was born on August 11, 1889, to James Newton and Florence Sharpe Watkins in Anderson, South Carolina. She married her husband, Major William D. Workman, Sr., in September 1913. They had two children, William D. Workman, Jr. and Vivian Virginia Workman. She passed away on June 27, 1981, at the age of 91.[1]


Heber Rhea Thomas Workman, Caesars Head State Park, 1947

Workman’s wife, Heber Rhea Thomas Workman, was born in 1918 to Heber and Ruth Thomas. In 1937, she graduated from Winthrop, where her papers are held. She then married Workman and had two children, William D. Workman III, and Dorrill “Dee” Workman.[2] She earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in English at the University of South Carolina and served as an English professor at Columbia College from 1957 to 1977.[3] During her tenure, she received several post-doctoral fellowships and became known as an expert in Irish History. As such, she gave many presentations and organized several noteworthy exhibits.[4] She also served as editor of South Carolina Magazine and was named S.C. mother of the year in 1978. She passed away in 1988 at the age of 69.[5]

Dorrill “Dee” Workman, Clark’s Hill Dam, 1952 [now J. Strom Thurmond Dam]

The Workmans’ daughter, Dee, left school after tenth grade to attend Columbia College at the age of fifteen and became the youngest college graduate in South Carolina when she earned her BA in English, with honors, at age eighteen.[6] After completing graduate work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she moved to Washington, D.C. to work for Sen. Strom Thurmond.[7] Her political involvement continued across all levels of government and led her to Mobil Oil Corporation, where she served as an executive. During this time, she worked closely with then-Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, John C. West.

By Mae Howe

Top to bottom: black-and-white illustration of eagle statue, text: "National Archives," divider, text: "National Historical Publications and Records Commission."Reprocessing and digitization of the William D. Workman, Jr. Papers photographs has been made possible by a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.



[1] “Mrs. V. Workman of Greenville, Dies,” June 28, 1981.

[2] Colleen Bradley and Kelly Gilbert, “Biographical Note,” William D. Workman, Jr. Papers.

[3] Jane Odom, “Scope and Content Note,” Heber Rhea Thomas Workman Papers.

[4] “Dr. Workman S.C. Mother of the Year,” The State, Feb. 12, 1978.

[5] “Dr. Rhea T. Workman, retired professor, dies,” The State, September 19, 1988.

[6] Columbia College Bulletin, October 1963.

[7] Mary Terry, “Female Executive Enjoys High-Powered Lifestyle,” The State, 4 Dec. 1977.

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