Posted on 3/1/2023 by Jessie Jacob

The Women of Charleston's History

Happy first day of March!

Also known as Women's History Month! In honor of this month, we're highlighting a few of the brave and talented women from Charleston who influenced the course of history. These women were pioneers for their generations and helped lay the groundwork for the influential women of today.

Sarah Campbell allan


Sarah Campbell Allan (1860-1933) – Sarah Campbell Allan was a Charleston native who applied to the Medical College of South Carolina as a young adult. Although she was rejected from attending due to being a woman, she did not give up. With the support of her father, she went on to study medicine; first at the South Carolina College for Women, and then at the Women's Medical College of New York. In 1894 Allan returned to Charleston and played a part in the first sitting of the South Carolina Medical Board. Not only was she the only woman who showed up, but she scored the highest grade of the 14 applicants and became the first woman doctor in the state of South Carolina. Following her licensure, Allan went on to have a career working in patient care and teaching at the South Carolina Hospital for the Insane.

Laura Mary Bragg


Upon earning a library science degree from Simmons College in 1906, Laura Mary Bragg moved to Charleston to work as a librarian at the Charleston Museum. She diligently worked to advocate for the advancement of public science education and was named the Director of the Charleston Museum in 1920. Bragg was the first woman in the United States to hold this title. By founding the Poetry Society of South Carolina, helping the museum purchase and restore the historic Heyward-Washington House, and adding a children's library to lend books at the museum; Bragg remained both a leader and advocate for education. She even played a role in Charleston's Civil Rights movement by opening the museum to the black community one day a week - a huge step forward during this time period.

Septima Pionsette Clark


Septima Poinsette Clark (1898–1987) – Septima Poinsette Clark studied to become a teacher at the Avery Institute in Charleston. After years of teaching at private rural schools, she became an advocate for allowing educators in the black community teach at public schools. In 1920, the South Carolina state legislature accomplished just that! Later in life, Clark became an important leader in the Civil Rights Movement and is credited with creating the "citizenship school" model of political activism. She has been greatly awarded and recognized for her contributions to equal education and civil rights across the country. These recognitions include awards such as an honorary doctorate from the College of Charleston, the "Living Legacy" award from President Jimmy Carter, and receiving the "Order of the Palmetto" which is the highest honor in the State of South Carolina.

Dorothy Heyward


A Harvard graduate, Dorothy Heyward was a successful playwright and novelist. While attending a summer residency she met her husband Dubose Heyward (A Charleston native) - whom she married in 1923. Heyward and her husband worked together to produce a dramatized version of his novel "Porgy" which later became the well-known Opera "Porgy & Bess" after being set to music by George and Ira Gershwin. In 1940, Heyward became the resident dramatist at Dock Street Theater where she wrote some of her greatest works, such as "South Pacific" and "Set My People Free".

Island Realty does not own the rights to the portrait photographs used in this article.

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