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University Libraries - Women in Politics and Government

Women in Politics and Government

South Carolina Political Collections actively seeks the papers of women and women’s organizations which relate to government and politics.  In addition to those collections, the papers of the political parties and other leaders in government may be less obvious, but are of great value in documenting women in politics and government.  Women have long played major roles in party affairs, though during the 20th Century, these roles were more often behind the scenes than as office holder and candidate.   

first lady
Josephine McNair
Legislative files in the papers of members of Congress and the General Assembly and of other office holders are replete with primary documentation related to women and women’s issues such as reproductive rights and the Equal Rights Amendment.  And spouses often played critical roles in the careers of their partners.  

Gladys Johnston was a valued partner to her husband, governor and U.S. Senator Olin D. Johnston.  Millie Dorn was a journalist before she married Congressman Bryan Dorn and served as his office and campaign manager after their marriage.  First ladies such as Josephine McNair, Lois West, “Tunky” Riley, Iris Campbell, Rachel Hodges, and Jenny Sanford each played significant roles and are represented in their husbands’ collections.


Following are some key collections held by SCPC documenting women in politics. Detailed descriptions of these and other SCPC collections open for study are available at our website:


Democratic Women’s Council of South Carolina Papers

Affiliated with the Democratic Party of South Carolina, this organization works for the election of Party candidates; initiates and carries out programs and projects on behalf of the Party and its candidates; and encourages women to become involved in the Democratic Party at all levels.  


Lottie D. “Dolly” Hamby  (1918-2001) 

Comprised chiefly of the records of the Bradley, Graham, & Hamby Advertising and Public Relations Agency, primarily 1954-1974, the collection documents their work for a range of political candidates.  This firm was unique when formed as each of the partners was a woman.  


Harriet Keyserling (b. 1922) 

The collection chiefly documents Keyserling’s tenure in the South Carolina House of Representatives (Beaufort County), 1977-1992, and the areas in which she developed expertise, including the arts, Beaufort County, education, and energy. 


League of Women Voters collections 

These include the papers of the League of Women Voters of Columbia/Richland County, League of Women Voters of South Carolina, and League of Women Voters of Spartanburg.  These extensive collections document all manner of issues, chiefly affecting state and local government, since 1919.


Clara McMillan

Clara McMillan (1894-1979)

These papers in the collection of Thomas S. and Clara G. McMillan document her life.  After the death of her husband, Congressman Thomas McMillan (1888-1939), Mrs. McMillan became the second woman elected to Congress from South Carolina when she was elected to complete her husband’s unexpired term representing South Carolina’s 1st District.   Mrs. McMillan did not run for re-election in 1940, but stayed in Washington and served in a variety of offices until her retirement in 1957.


Ann B. Morris (1917-2006)

The papers of Edgar L. and Ann B. Morris document their leadership in the growth of the Republican Party in South Carolina during the 1950s and 1960s.  


Barbara Moxon (b. 1921) 

Moxon’s papers document her leadership in the League of Women Voters and her work with other organizations including Advocates for Comprehensive Health Education, American Association of University Women, Common Cause of South Carolina, Equal Rights Amendment South Carolina, South Carolina Advocates for Women on Boards and Commissions, and South Carolina Coalition for Choice.


Erminie Nave (b. 1923) 

The John (b. 1921) and Erminie Nave Papers principally relate to their involvement in Republican Party activities in Greenwood County.   


South Carolina Coalition for the ERA

The Coalition’s Papers, covering 1963-1978, reflect efforts to secure ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the federal constitution.  The group was co-funded by the League of Women Voters and the National Organization for Women. 


Modjeska Monteith Simkins (1899-1992)

Modjeska Simkins

The Simkins papers document her life and particularly her leadership in the civil rights movement.  This collection is available on microfilm via interlibrary loan.





palm line

The following collections have not yet opened to research.  They may be in the process of being arranged and described or awaiting additional materials before SCPC begins their processing.  In some cases a researcher who applies directly to the donor may be granted access to a collection before it is officially open.

Rita Derrick Hayes (b. 1942) Papers, currently closed for processing, document Hayes’ activities as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative in Geneva, Switzerland, and U.S. Permanent Representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO), 1977-2001. Hayes was appointed Deputy Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in 2001. 

Mary Kelly Papers, currently closed for processing, document her service as a leader in the League of Women Voters and other organizations, including the South Carolina Environmental Coalition.  Kelly was particularly active in the League’s efforts to study the impact of nuclear energy on the environment.   

Kate Salley Palmer (b. 1946) Papers, currently closed for processing, consists of drawings, sketches, and papers relating to Palmer’s work as an editorial cartoonist and children’s book author.

Elizabeth J. Patterson (b. 1939) Papers, currently closed for processing, document Patterson’s service in the South Carolina Senate (Spartanburg County area), 1979-1986, and the U.S. House of Representatives, 4th District, 1987-1993.  Personal papers reflect her campaigns for office and service outside of public office.